A few weeks ago several articles began bubbling up through the media on a memo and a report on the quality of Palantir vs. DCGS-A. This memo and report framed a debate. A debate that is ridiculous and I’ll explain why below.

Prior to proceeding, it should be said, I’m not here to sell either product, nor do I work for either company. I am going to let you decide.

What is DCGS-A?

Usually pronounced “deecigs” or phonetically spelled, the acronym stands for “Distributed Common Ground System-Army”. It’s a network built from the ground up by the Army with the intent (potentially) of replicating the architecture in the other services, thus the “A” for now, but possibly “N” and “AF” later. At the user level, it is a suite of tools. Not one tool, but many.

At the inception of DCGS, the Army needed a product that met several specifications in today’s operational environment. It had a system called ASAS (All Source Analysis System) that was passing into obsolescence due to the changing nature of warfare (an issue which is and has been debatable), the system functioned effectively (also up for debate) but was designed for a “force on force” type of warfare.

A strong point of the system was to be able to use various sensors and pick up battlefield ELINT, but even with that strong point, it had some serious gaps in functionality. To meet those gaps (among others) the Army hired contractors to build a “distributed” (think “cloud”) system that would allow a conventional or unconventional soldier be able to conduct battlefield fusion analysis usually at the Analysis Control Element (ACE) with just a laptop. Essentially the soldier would need a rugged, mobile system that would contain all the tools required to accomplish his tasks. This system also needed to be “plugged in” at a ground level to units sharing the battle space as well as a “reach back” component to talk to national level intelligence support (DIA, CIA, etc.).