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The U.S. Army Is Testing A Data Platform Just For Intel Officers

It’s part of a larger effort to use commercial and cloud-based technologies to make the service more data centric.

The U.S. Army is testing a data analytics platform that will make intel officers smarter. And if all goes well, it could be available to intel officers across the service. 

“​​We are testing an Army Intelligence Data Platform. So essentially a system that will ingest all of the Army's intel data—data from the intel community, commercial data, whatever data sources our intel professionals may need or want,” Mark Kitz, the program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors, told Defense One

That system, formerly called the Distributed Common Ground System-Army Capability Drop 2, is completely cloud based and just completed testing with military intelligence battalions in Fort Gordon, Ga. Other intel professionals also have access to the platform, including some in the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Shaw Air Force Base, and U.S. Central Command.

Results of the test that wrapped Friday are still pending, but the aim was to fine-tune the platform for practical use by units that tested the platform. But the ultimate goal is to expand its use.

“And when we get past this sort of phase,” Kitz said, “we will have a data platform for our intel professionals to access, aggregate, and have tools against the data so they can answer tough questions about the future environment without preparing for any contingency.” 

The platform, which soldiers can access from any classified device, is part of the Army’s cloud-based command post computing environment and houses dashboards, data tools, and several apps that feed it data through the platform, including All Source II application, which will process tactical intel data. Palantir, the prime contractor for the platform, just landed a five-year $59 million contract to integrate and deploy that app. 

“And so out of this test, our hope is that we widely give this out to the Army so that the 50,000-plus Army intel professionals have a tool where they can access data in a really meaningful way, so they don't have to go to every website to find data and correlate it internally or on a spreadsheet,” Kitz said.

But one challenge with new capabilities—after making sure they work as intended—is getting people to use them, Kitz said. 

“Typically when we equip the Army, we show up with a truck or we show up with a piece of equipment and we do new equipment training,” he said. But with this platform, the end product is essentially “a little Java app, they run a website. And so one of the things that we're struggling with and working towards is how do we ensure users know the power of this system.”

The platform is one of the PEO’s first experiences using cloud, and during the test, the goal was to “stress the system” to understand how much data it can handle. That answer so far is about 15 million records and growing, and that total includes various types of intel reports, sensor data, and other content.

The next step is to incorporate localized data, so a brigade can access the platform for geospatial or other information even if they have intermittent communications or spotty network access. 

In addition to keeping access and user experience consistent no matter the connection level, the aim is to make sure analysts have tools they need to make sense of the data, “so they can understand the environment, they can make predictions about the environment, and they can inform their commander,” Kitz said.