In­ter­vened to back Army in­tel sys­tem

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

A front-run­ner for be­com­ing the mil­i­tary’s top spy has played a ma­jor role in shep­herd­ing and de­fend­ing a bat­tle­field in­tel­li­gence net­work that some law­mak­ers and sol­diers say fails too of­ten.

Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, Army deputy chief of staff for in­tel­li­gence, has gone to bat on Capi­tol Hill and in­side the Pen­tagon for the Dis­trib­uted Com­mon Ground Sys­tem de­spite com­plaints that the servers, browser and pro­ces­sors break down in the field.

Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, is ask­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel to re­view Gen. Legere’s ste­ward­ship over the com­put­er­ized net­work be­fore ap­point­ing the next direc­tor of the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency, the Pen­tagon’s spy­ing and anal­y­sis ser­vice.

The De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency di­rec­tor­ship be­comes va­cant this year upon the re­tire­ment of Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, which was an­nounced last week.

In 2012, Gen. Legere urged the Army’s in­de­pen­dent oper­a­tional tester to re­tract a fa­vor­able re­port about a com­mer­cially avail­able an­a­lyt­i­cal tool, Palan­tir, that some com­man­ders pre­fer to the com­mon ground sys­tem. She ob­jected to Palan­tir on the grounds that it would vi­o­late pol­icy.

Gen. Legere’s in­ter­ven­tion stirred crit­i­cism on Capi­tol Hill. The Army ap­pointed a fel­low three-star gen­eral at Pen­tagon head­quar­ters to in­ves­ti­gate, and he con­cluded she did noth­ing wrong.

Dur­ing Gen. Legere’s two years as Army in­tel­li­gence chief, the ser­vice has not de­liv­ered on a prom­ise to have the ground sys­tem work­ing with cloud com­put­ing to rapidly store and dis­pense in­tel­li­gence to war fight­ers.

Congress this year cut the sys­tem’s bud­get by 60 per­cent.

The Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Armed Ser­vices has crit­i­cized the Army for the net­work’s slow progress and for its re­luc­tance to buy off-the-shelf servers and soft­ware, such as Palan­tir, that can help sol­diers im­me­di­ately.

Mr. Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said in a May 1 let­ter to Mr. Hagel that Gen. Legere, as well as the head of Army in­tel­li­gence com­mand, “holds prin­ci­pal re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ing to de­liver ur­gent ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the warfighter.”

Among the “fail­ures” he listed were “un­war­ranted in­flu­ence over of­fi­cial as­sess­ments, se­ri­ous breaches of fed­eral fund­ing re­quire­ments, and mis­lead­ing state­ments to Congress.”

“It is now clear that Congress has re­ceived false as­sur­ances that the Army would pro­vide cloud ca­pa­bil­ity” for the com­mon ground sys­tem, Mr. Hunter wrote. “With the lives of sol­diers on the line, the Army’s cloud ca­pa­bil­i­ties have proven in­ad­e­quate or out­right dys­func­tional.”

A cloud com­put­ing ar­chi­tec­ture would give in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions si­mul­ta­ne­ous ac­cess to all sorts of data, be it satel­lite im­agery or re­ports on Tal­iban in­for­mants.

An Army spokesman re­ferred ques­tions about the Hunter let­ter to Mr. Hagel’s of­fice. A spokesman said the de­fense sec­re­tary would an­swer the let­ter in pri­vate and had made no nom­i­na­tion.

An Army of­fi­cer at the Pen­tagon said Gen. Legere is well-re­spected by Army staff.

“I con­sider her one of our best gen­er­als,” the of­fi­cer said. “She is a gifted leader and one of our best in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als. I would fol­low her to the ends of the earth, and I never say that about any­one. I felt she re­ally proved her­self as a se­nior leader in Iraq, do­ing more for the mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity than any other in­tel pro­fes­sional I can name in re­cent mem­ory.”

‘Life or death is­sues’

Gen. Legere is con­sid­ered a ris­ing star in Wash­ing­ton in­tel­li­gence cir­cles and was men­tioned as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for Army Gen. Keith Alexan­der as chief of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency. That ap­point­ment went to Navy Adm. Michael Rogers.

If ap­pointed, Gen. Legere would be the first woman to head the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency.

The agency em­braced a greatly ex­panded spy­ing role af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks by send­ing hun­dreds of of­fi­cers into war zones.

The Wash­ing­ton Times has re­ported on a num­ber of in­ter­nal memos from com­man­ders in Afghanistan com­plain­ing about flaws in the Dis­trib­uted Com­mon Ground Sys­tem.

The com­man­ders praised Palan­tir, a server-soft­ware tool that has showed great suc­cess in an­a­lyz­ing the en­emy and help­ing dis­rupt ca­bals that plant im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices, the No. 1 killer of Amer­i­cans in Afghanistan.

Gen. Legere’s 2012 in­ter­ven­tion cen­tered on a con­fi­den­tial as­sess­ment is­sued that April by the Army Test and Eval­u­a­tion Com­mand, which was di­rected by Maj. Gen. Ge­naro J. Del­larocco at that time.

Gen. Ray­mond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff, had or­dered the test­ing com­mand to eval­u­ate Palan­tir, and its re­port quoted sol­diers prais­ing the soft­ware’s an­a­lyt­i­cal power.

The Times first re­ported that Gen. Del­larocco or­dered the re­port to be scratched af­ter it was pub­li­cized within Army in­tel­li­gence bu­reaus. The test­ing com­mand is­sued a less-fa­vor­able re­port on Palan­tir in May 2012 that deleted some sol­diers’ praise and re­moved a rec­om­men­da­tion that more Palan­tir com­mer­cial servers be sent to Afghanistan.

The orig­i­nal test­ing com­mand re­port mir­rored state­ments from com­man­ders in Afghanistan who dis­liked the com­mon ground sys­tem.

An 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer said in a memo to the Pen­tagon: “We are try­ing to solve some very hard prob­lems that pose life or death is­sues for the sol­diers un­der this com­mand, and [the Dis­trib­uted Com­mon Ground Sys­tem] is not mak­ing our job eas­ier, while Palan­tir is giv­ing us an in­tel­li­gence edge. This is a

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, Army deputy chief of staff for in­tel­li­gence, has gone to bat on Capi­tol Hill and in­side the Pen­tagon for the Dis­trib­uted Com­mon Ground Sys­tem.

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