‘Not survivable’ but very profitable: Contractors cash in on failed intelligence network

‘Not survivable’ but very profitable: Contractors cash in on failed intelligence network
The capabilities of a multi-billion dollar intelligence-sharing system built for the Pentagon are questioned in a new report that raises concerns about the platform’s lackluster performance.

According to an article published by the Associated Press on Monday this week, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A) designed for the United States Army a decade ago as an intelligence-gathering infrastructure to aid the military is absent any success stories, except with regards to the individuals alleged to have profited heavily from the platform’s development.

Years after being launched, Ken Dilanian wrote for the AP, the DCGS-A’s performance has fallen well short of what the Pentagon had hoped to achieve with it. Dilanian acknowledges that the high-tech system was intended “to integrate intelligence from a network of sensors and databases to provide a common intelligence picture from the Pentagon to the farthest reaches of Afghanistan,” yet has been anything but a success.

“[T]he program so far has been a bust,” Dilanian wrote, “with one memorable Army testing report finding it ‘not operationally effective, not operationally suitable and not survivable.’”

Dilanian adds that these failures come notwithstanding the involvement of a number of individuals tied closely to the project from the private and public sphere — and sometimes both.

“The performance failures of the network have been well-documented, but less scrutiny has been devoted to the revolving door between defense companies that profit from the troubled intelligence system and the military commands that continue to fund it, records show,” Dilanian wrote. “Several people who worked in key roles in Army intelligence left for top jobs at those companies.”

“In the world of government contracting, that's not illegal or entirely uncommon,” he added, “but critics say it perpetuates a culture of failure.”

Among those people, Dilanian added, are Russell Richardson, an architect of the DCGS-A that went from working as a private contractor to joining the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, or INSCOM, and Timothy Hill, a former INSCOM director who secured nearly $50 million for his own private venture from the same Pentagon agency within months of retiring from the military in 2013. According to the AP report, Richardson won an $89 million contract for a private defense contractor in 2004 that later helped design the DCGS-A. Others involved with the development of the intel-sharing system that is largely considered a failure have teetered between the military and private sector as well, yet, years into its development, the DCGS-A remains anything but a success.

Yet this isn’t the first time that the intel system in question has come under attack. Earlier this year in July, Dilanian wrote for a separate AP report that outgoing military personnel were weary then of what the system was capable of.

"DCGS folks promised a solution three years ago, and they have yet to deliver," Col. Peter Newell, formerly of the Army's Rapid Equipping Force, said at the time.