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Palantir deepens its Pentagon business with new $110 million Army contract

Alex Karp, chief executive of Palantir, arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris on May 15. (Thibault Camus/AP)

The Army will turn to Palantir Technologies to piece together thousands of complex data sets containing information on U.S. soldiers and the expansive military arsenal that supports them, the Defense Department announced Friday.

The initial $110 million contract is part of a four-year, $440 million program called Vantage, formerly known as Army Leader Dashboard.

The deal promises to significantly deepen the Silicon Valley-based analytics company’s ties to the Pentagon. It is the second time in the past year that Palantir has won a front seat on a defense program of record, which has a dedicated line of funding from Congress. In March, it became the primary contractor for a separate Army program called Distributed Common Ground System, which is focused on battlefield intelligence.

Doug Philippone, a former Army Ranger who leads the company’s D.C. operation, said the project will allow military agencies to harness data to make better strategic decisions.

“Data integration is Palantir’s core business and we’re proud to help the Army make better use of their own data,” Philippone said in an email. “We look forward to continuing to grow our partnership with the men and women of the U.S. Army and will do everything we can to ensure this technology makes them more successful.”

Co-founded by Peter Thiel, a billionaire technology investor who has at times been an adviser to the Trump administration, Palantir has made its name serving the needs of the national security establishment. For more than a decade, it has helped U.S. spy agencies make sense of the torrents of complex intelligence data they collect.

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Over time, it expanded throughout the commercial business world while building a data analytics platform called Foundry, which organizations of all types use to analyze their own data.

Under the terms of the four-year contract with the Defense Department, Palantir will create a version of Foundry that pulls in thousands of the Army’s internal data sets to create a central dashboard for military leaders.

Having a centralized tracking system should help the Army track its own spending and better optimize its assets. The military’s IT systems are not tracked in a centralized IT system, meaning soldiers’ information is instead spread across thousands of siloed systems.

The problem was illustrated two years ago when the Defense Department completed its first full audit, a massive undertaking that employed some 1,200 accountants who visited more than 600 locations. One of the audit’s main findings was that the Pentagon simply does not have a handle on the path of its own spending, something that has hampered accountability.

The Vantage contract was awarded under a unique contract specification called Other Transaction Authority, which allows defense agencies to work with contractors to develop prototypes on an iterative basis. Such an approach allows them to sidestep the Federal Acquisition Regulation, a 2,010-page document largely written with giant military hardware purchases in mind.