More Palantir Pressure on DCGS Vendors?

November 25, 2016

I read a personnel announcement. For most people, the report that a Silicon Valley type joined Donald J. Trump’s transition team is a ho hum, so what moment. You decide for yourself. Navigate to “Trump’s Transition Team Adds VC from Thiel’s Founders Fund.” I highlighted this bit of real news from real journalists as spot on (I assume, of course).

Trae Stephens, a principal at Thiel’s Founders Fund, is being appointed to Trump’s defense transition team, said people familiar with the matter. He will help shape policy and vet Defense Department staff but isn’t expected to take a role in the administration, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

When I read this, several ideas flapped across my mind.

First, the DCGS incumbents now have to deal with two Palanterians providing input on how to use information to achieve operational goals. One Hobbit was not good for outfits accustomed to having direct inputs with regard to certain procurements and technology decisions. Two Hobbits. Yikes.

Second, I doubt that Donald J. Trump understands that DCGS is based on a very big vision of federating information from a wide range of sources, deploying systems which can lose connectivity in certain situations, and require that system users keep on their toes with regard to the freshness of the data being manipulated. My hunch is that explaining why a system which has been in the works for more than a decade and has consumed billions of dollars is not going to fit into a sound bite or a tweet. Explanations may be a bigger problem than the venerable traditional Beltway approach to government software. Palantir’s Hobbits show pictures and clever stuff like wheel menus.

Third, the Hobbits are not likely to bring up the past. The future is sort of now in the Donald J. Trump moment. When the Hobbits fire up a laptop and generate a bubble gum card about an alleged bad actor, my thought is that Donald J. Trump will say, “That’s huge.” The fact that Gotham is a product and ready to install and use may elicit a “That’s great.” Who will say that about the DCGS console? I know. The vendors holding the prime DCGS contracts.

In short, some of those vendor meetings underway in Beltway office buildings are likely to be interesting. And stressful. Yep, stressful.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2016


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