IED tracking solution being met with resistance

Software developed to track IEDs

SAN DIEGO - A software program that has proven its ability to track improvised explosive devices is being met with resistance within the Pentagon and Department of Defense.

Destroying lethal IEDs on the battlefield is imperative, and the proof is in the numbers. Since the war in Afghanistan began, 70 percent of all casualties resulted from IEDs.

Silicon Valley-based company Palantir Technologies, founded by the creators of PayPal, has evolved software used to catch bank fraud into a tool to tie together multiple information sources to pinpoint potential IED targets.

Battlefield commanders like Maj. Gen. John Toolan -- the one-time top Marine commander in Afghanistan -- have high praise for Palantir.

In a letter obtained by 10News, Toolan called Palantir "revolutionary" as he laid out his arguments for the system to the director of the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office.

Toolan said the tool has proven its "effectiveness for … forces in combat" and it "reduced the time required for countless analytical … processes." It also "streamlined other … cumbersome … processes."

*To read Toolan's letter, click here

"What it would take analysts literally days and weeks to figure out IED networks, this thing does in a matter of minutes, literally," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).

Why doesn't every command have access to the software?

Hunter said it has to do with the Pentagon's procurement process.

"The DOD, and the Pentagon especially, like these big, long-term billion-dollar programs," said Hunter.

The program is off the shelf and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other systems currently deployed. Because it's not in the Pentagon's game plan, commanders in the field have to write letters and argue for it.

"This thing only costs a few million dollars … like one or two million dollars to outfit a quarter of our troops in Afghanistan," said Hunter.

Hunter said the tool will save American lives and is urging the Pentagon to find the money in a time of threatened cutbacks.

"If you can increase your found-and-cleared rate, find where the IEDs are … so no one is driving over them, that is huge," said Hunter.

*Click here to read more about Hunter's request that Congress investigate the issue

The following is a response from Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), the group within the Department of Defense that is charged with leading all counter-IED actions: JIEDDO's Counter-IED Operations Integration Center has Palantir, using the platform for data warehousing, but it takes lots of training to use well.

There is an alternative product from BAIR software that is used by many U.S. civilian police departments to do predictive analysis, which serves as another tool. JIEDDO's deployed analysts use ARCGis, Google Earth, and Excel.

As Palantir is such an expensive piece of software, JIEDDO is studying alternatives to it.

Regarding the ability to "map stuff out," as the Washington Times article stated (Click here to read article), Palantir doesn't do that. A database called CPAT is the only analytical tool that is doing predictive analysis with regards to IED events.

Palantir doesn't consistently predict things with accuracy as it only maps what it can properly read in, and that takes significant training and effort.

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