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The Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) is a weapons system which produces military intelligence for both the United States Army and United States Air Force (where it is officially known as the AN/GSQ-272 Sentinel).


While in U.S. Air Force use, the system produces intelligence collected by the U-2 Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator.[1] The previous system of similar use was the Deployable Ground Station (DGS), which was first deployed in July 1994. Subsequent version of DGS were developed from 1995 through 2009.[1] Although officially designated a "weapons system", it consists of computer hardware and software connected together in a computer network, devoted to processing and dissemination of information such as images.[2] The 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency operates and maintains the USAF system.[3]

A plan envisioned in 1998 was to develop interoperable systems for the Army and Navy, in addition to the Air Force.[4] By 2006, version 10.6 was deployed by the Air Force, and a version known as DCGS-A was developed for the Army.[5] After a 2010 report by General Michael T. Flynn, the program was intended to use cloud computing and be as easy to use as an iPad, which soldiers over a few years were commonly using.[6] By April 2011, project manager Colonel Charles Wells announced version 3 of the Army system (code named "Griffin") was being deployed in the US war in Afghanistan.[7] In January 2012, the United States Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center hosted a meeting based on the DCGS-A early experience. It brought together technology providers in the hope of developing more integrated systems using cloud computing with open architectures, compared to previously specialized custom-built systems.[8]

A major contractor was Lockheed Martin, with computers supplied by Silicon Graphics International out of its Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin office.[9] Software known as the Analyst's Notebook, originally developed by i2 Limited, was included in DCGS-A.[10] IBM acquired i2 in 2011.[11]

Some US Army personnel reported using a Palantir Technologies product to improve their ability to predict locations of improvised explosive devices. An April 2012 report recommending further study after initial success. Palantir software was rated easy to use, but did not have the flexibility and wide number of data sources of DCGS-A.[12] In July 2012, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (from California, the state where Palantir is based) complained of US DoD obstacles to its wider use.[13] Although a limited test in August 2011 by the Test and Evaluation Command had recommended deployment, operation problems of DCGS-A included the baseline system was "not operationally effective" with reboots on average about every 8 hours. A set of improvements was identified in November 2012.[14] The press reported some of the shortcomings uncovered by General Genaro Dellarocco in the tests.[15] The ambitious goal of integrating 473 data sources for 75 million reports proved to be challenging, after spending an estimated $2.3 billion on the Army system alone.[4][16]

In May 2013 Politico reported that Palantir lobbyists and some anonymous returning veterans continued to advocate the use of its software, despite its interoperability limits. In particular, members of special forces and US Marines were not required to use the official Army system.[17] Similar stories appeared in other publications, with Army representatives (such as Major General Mary A. Legere) citing the limitations of various systems.[18] Congressman Hunter was a member of the House Armed Services Committee which required a review of the program, after two other members of congress sent an open letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.[19] The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee included testimony from Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno.[20]

The equivalent system for the United States Navy was planned for initial deployment by 2015, and within a shipboard network called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) by 2016.[4] Some early testing was announced in 2009 aboard the aircraft carrier USS  Harry Truman.[21]

A portion of the software, a distributed data framework for the DCGS integration backbone (DIB) version 4, was submitted to an open-source software repository of the Codice Foundation on github.[22][23] The framework was new for DIB version 4, replacing an Ozone Widget Framework.[24] It was written in the Java programming language.[25]



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Air Force Distributed Common Ground System". Fact sheet. US Air Force. December 9, 2011. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  2. Lance Menthe, Amado Cordova, Carl Rhodes, Rachel Costello, Jeffrey Sullivan (February 10, 2012). The Future of Air Force Motion Imagery Exploitation: Lessons from the Commercial World. Rand Corporation. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-8330-5964-2. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  3. "Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency". Fact sheet. US Air Force. August 10, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Greg Slabodkin (October 1, 2012). "Distributed common ground system comes under fire". Defense Systems Magazine. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  5. "Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS)". Defense Update. 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  6. George I. Seffers (July 2012). "Making Battlefield Intelligence "iPad Easy"". SIGNAL Online. Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  7. Barry Rosenberg (April 4, 2011). "Army harnesses full power of intelligence assets". Defense Systems. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  8. Kristen Kushiyama (February 1, 2012). "Cloud computing to integrate with current Army system". US Army. Retrieved September 28, 2013. 
  9. Rick Barrett. "State companies helping Army with cloud computing". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  10. "Army continues use of i2 software". UPI. August 17, 2011. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  11. Joab Jackson (August 31, 2011). l "IBM acquiring i2 for criminal mastermind software: The company will use i2's Analyst's Notebook and other products in its own criminal data analysis systems". Info World. l. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  12. US Army Operational Test Command (April 5, 2012). "Palantir Operational Assessment Report". Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  13. Rowan Scarborough (July 16, 2012). "Military has to fight to purchase lauded IED buster". Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  14. "Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A)". United States Army Test and Evaluation Command. December 27, 2012. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  15. Noah Shachtman (August 8, 2012). "Brain, Damaged: Army Says Its Software Mind Is 'Not Survivable'". Wired Danger Room. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  16. Noah Shachtman (November 30, 2012). "No Spy Software Scandal Here, Army Claims". Wired Danger Room. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  17. Noah Shachtman (August 1, 2012). "Spy Chief Called Silicon Valley Stooge in Army Software Civil War". Wired Danger Room. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  18. Robert Draper (June 19, 2013). "Boondoggle Goes Boom: A demented tale of how the Army actually does business". The New Republic. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  19. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz (August 1, 2012). "Open Letter to Leon E. Panetta, Secretary, US Department of Defense". Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  20. Austin Wright (May 29, 2013). "The Army's multibillion dollar 'money pit'". Politico. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  21. Robert K. Ackerman (December 2009). "Seaborne Intelligence Comes Aboard". SIGNAL Online. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  22. David Perera (June 24, 2013). "Major part of DCGS now open source". Fierce Government IT. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  23. "Codice Foundation". Github projects. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  24. "DCGS Integration Backbone (DIB) v4.0 Overview". The DCGS MET Office. March 13, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  25. "Frequently Asked Questions". Distributed Data Framework. Codice Foundation. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 

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