Army DCGS receives deployment decision but without top secret capability

The Army’s Distributed Common Ground Systems (DCGS-A) received a full deployment decision for its first increment from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall on Dec. 14, but without top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) capability.

DCGS-A was formerly a quick reaction capability that will now be fielded across the entire Army intelligence enterprise. The decision also allows the Army to continue development and testing for future improvements to DCGS-A.

DCGS-A was criticized early this year in a memo from the Army Test and Evaluation Command, which said the system was “effective with significant limitations, not suitable and not survivable.”

MG Harold Greene, deputy for acquisition and systems management, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said that limitations to the DCGS-A software apply only to its TS/SCI element.

“DCGS went through an initial operational test and evaluation in April and May of this year,” said Greene, speaking to reporters on Dec. 20. “There was a report done by the director of operational test and evaluation that was published, and has been extensively quoted (in the media). What it found is that we had some challenges, particularly with the top secret, sensitive compartmented information portion of the program.

“DCGS-A operates at multiple security levels to include coalition, the secret level and then the top secret, compartmented information, and what they found was that there were some challenges with the work flows, particularly between the top secret, sensitive compartmented information and the SIPR (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) or coalition domains.

“They also found that there were some reliability challenges, primarily with the top secret, sensitive compartmented information portion of DCGS-A. The decision that we requested from Mr. Kendall on the full deployment decision is that we be allowed to deploy the other components of DCGS-A minus the top secret sensitive, compartmented information component, (and) that we continue to use the existing systems that are on the top secret sensitive compartmented information domain to continue providing those capabilities.

“So I emphasize that there was no loss of capability in the transition, and in the next release of DCGS-A we will bring in an improved version of the TS/SCI components. We will take that through test and the DOT&E folks will oversee that process.”

The next release of the DCGS-A software will occur about one year from now, and will include TS/SCI capability, said Green, who in his previous assignment was program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), with responsibility for DCGS-A development. The system will then be tested at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation 13.2 in 2013, with a decision to field scheduled for after that.

In a related issue, Greene also addressed the issue of software from Palantir Technologies, Palo Alto, CA, which has been purchased by a variety of military organizations to perform intelligence functions that were originally designed for DCGS software.

According to Greene, the Army has received 13 requests for Palantir software with approval granted for 9 of those requests. Of the four that did not receive the Palantir software, one was for a unit that requested it for a deployment to Afghanistan but was instead redirected to Iraq, one was for a unit that requested it too late in their deployment cycle and redeployed before installation, and two were provided DCGS-A capabilities.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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