Late last week we saw the release of a letter from Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Director, National Intelligence LTG James Clapper (USAF, Ret) regarding the impending nomination of US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, LTG Mary Legere to take the place at Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, of the out going LTG Mike Flynn. What makes this letter so interesting is that Rep Hunter is in opposition to LTG Legere’s appointment. LTG Legere is a career Military Intelligence Officer with a varied tactical intelligence background. I don’t believe that her experience is in question.
To read the letter click the link:
Rep Duncan Hunter on New DIA Nomination
Rather, Rep Hunter’s opposition all pivots around the long-plagued Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) program, and in particular its migration to a classified cloud computing environment which would allow users to access more data, from more locations. For those of you unfamiliar, DCGS-A is the Army’s primary system to post data, process information, and disseminate Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) information about the threat, weather, and terrain to echelons. DCGS-A provides commanders the ability to task battle-space sensors and receive intelligence information from multiple sources. Analysts claim it requires extensive contract support, is often down, is not intuitive and generally difficult to use. What they do like is a computer program called Palantir. Named after mythological Seeing Stones, Palantir was developed with help from the not-for-profit In-Q-Tel venture fund which is designed to assist promising technologies to support the US Intelligence Community. According to everyone who uses it, it works, and works well. How well? The data to track down arch-terrorist Usama bin Laden was reportedly analyzed and developed in a Palantir environment.
On one hand, it’s refreshing to see that members of Congress are keeping an eye on how well programs actually work. But, I’m concerned that Rep Hunter is shooting the messenger and not the folks actually at fault. In addition to LTG Legere, Rep hunter also calls out US Army Intelligence and Security Command’s Commanding General MG Stephen G. Fogarty, who like LTG Legere, is a career Intelligence Officer with a combination of tactical and strategic intelligence assignments including numerous tours in SOF. What both of these officers have done is briefed Congress on numerous occasions about the health of the system their forces use. As DCGS-A is far from a model program, INSCOM has reportedly attempted to create a duplicate cloud in order to make things work. Additionally, LTG Legere has not been as forthcoming with Congress as Rep Hunter would like regarding program details. But ultimately, the development and fielding (not use) of the actual program of record belongs to PEO Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Systems’ PM DCGS-A. That office is part of Army Material Command and not INSCOM or any other part of the Intelligence Community. If PEO IEWS was in a line and block chart of the IC, it would be a dashed line way off to the side.
Some would blame ‘The System’ for DCGS-A’s failure. Rep Hunter chooses to blame Army Intelligence leadership. But I suggest something more radical. I say we place responsibility on a broken program where it belongs; with the Acquisition community that developed it. Whether it’s an intelligence analysis system, an aircraft, or a camouflage pattern, the offices that manage the life cycle of these programs must be held accountable not only for schedule and budget but also, how well they actually work.