A $2.7 billion U.S. Army computer system that doesn’t function properly is reportedly interfering with efforts to fight insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dubbed DCGS-A, the cloud-based computing network was designed to collect data from multiple sources for real-time analysis. The goal: to place usable intelligence in the hands of battlefield commanders.
However, a number of analysts say DCGS-A is simply unable to perform even simple analytical tasks.
For example, the system’s search tool makes finding reports difficult, while the app used to map information was, at one point, incompatible with the search software.
In addition, the hardware experiences “problems,” with the system often crashing and frequently going offline.
“You couldn’t share the data,” said one former Army intelligence officer who was deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. ”Almost any commercial solution out there would be better.”
Meanwhile, a second officer confirmed there was “a lot of bugs” in the workflow.
“It [just] doesn’t work… It’s not providing the capabilities that they need… I can’t comprehend the amount of success that would have happened here or could have happened here [if intelligence analysts and commanders fielded a system that actually worked].”
Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the top military intelligence officer in a Afghanistan, expressed similar sentiments in a July 2010 memo obtained by Politico.
“Analysts cannot provide their commanders a full understanding of the operational environment. Without the full understanding of the enemy and human terrain, our operations are not as successful as they could be,” Flynn wrote. “This shortfall translates into operational opportunities missed and lives lost.”
Nevertheless, the Army claims the situation has significantly improved, as it has implemented numerous critical software updates over the past nine months to support urgent operational needs in Afghanistan.
“The DCGS-A Cloud Node at Bagram, Afghanistan, provides massive storage and processing capabilities that provide unprecedented capabilities for the intelligence analysts in theater,” stated Army Col. Charles Wells, DCGS-A project manager.
“Through the use of lightweight ‘widget’ software applications, analysts can query, sort and analyze over 20 million textual intelligence reports in less than one second – allowing them to see subtle connections, associations and patterns that were previously undetectable.”