“The example that was used was not correct,” McHugh said at a breakfast with reporters this morning. “The Army did not reject the operational needs statement referenced in the congressman’s comments. In fact, the commanding general ultimately withdrew it.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Odierno had gotten into an argument at a Capitol Hill hearing last week after Hunter asserted the Army has stifled requests downrange for a competing system offered by the company Palantir in order to favor its own system, Distributed Common Ground-Army, or DCGS-A.
Hunter spoke for three minutes then got up to leave without waiting for the reply from McHugh and Odierno.
McHugh asked whether Hunter would be staying, which Hunter opted to do. Odierno huffed, “I’m tired of being told we don’t care about soldiers and we don’t respond,” then launched into a vocal defense.
“If the gentleman wanted a response, I wanted to be able to comment, I wanted to be able to provide one,” McHugh said. “The chief spoke for himself, and that’s fair.”
McHugh explained DCGS-A is not truly in competition with a system offered by Palantir. Generally speaking, both systems are designed to mine government databases and sensor data to draw links and visualize patterns in adversary networks.
McHugh praised the Palantir system’s simplicity, link analysis capability and graphic clarity. In fact, the Army has been working with Palantir to incorporate its strengths into DCGS-A.
“What Palantir does, it does very well,” he said.
McHugh, a former congressman from upstate New York, took a conciliatory tone toward Hunter.
“I think it’s important where we have discussions, even if we have disagreements, that we all are coming from the same basics and the same facts. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about that,” McHugh said.
“I think the Army didn’t do as effective a job, in retrospect, as I would have liked in setting the narrative on this discussion,” he said.
Hunter, said McHugh, “wants what we want, which is the best for our soldiers.”
McHugh told reporters that the night before the hearing, the vice chief of staff of the Army spent a “considerable time” briefing Hunter about the program. Asked if he was surprised that Hunter had continued to question the program, McHugh said no.
“I was a member of Congress for 17 years,” he said, “I’m not surprised by anything.”
Here’s a link to the original post on the Defense News blog, “Intercepts.”
UPDATE: Hunter’s office responded to McHugh’s comments from this morning, saying the Army pressured soldiers to withdraw the war zone request in question and punished them for seeking the Palantir system.
Joe Kasper, the deputy chief of staff for Hunter’s office provided Army Times with a timeline that depicts multiple requests from the 3rd Infantry Division as well as “corrective action and punishment” for an official who sought Palantir.
“The congressman was already aware the request was withdrawn, but the bigger question was, ‘Why,'” Kasper said. “Why wasn’t 3rd ID granted, after a year of requests, what they were asking for?”
“We have received more emails on this from [soldiers working with DCGS-A in the war zone],” Hunter said. Quoting an officer who works with DCGS-A, Hunter said, “The problem is anyone who talks about DCGS-A in a negative light ends their career. I don’t know why this issue is so hot button and why I can’t speak the truth.”