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Congress questions Army role in denying life-saving software to troops

Congress is set to launch an investigation into a brewing Army scandal over the difficulty some units have had in securing a software system designed to predict the location of roadside bombs -- the No. 1 killer of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Though the software, called Palantir, is already being used by some troops in Afghanistan, more units have been requesting it and some of those requests remain unfulfilled. The 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division sent a request in May citing an "urgent need" for the intelligence-gathering system and has yet to receive it. 

What's more alarming, said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is that the Army stands accused of destroying internal reports that favor Palantir over its own system. 

"The problem is (the Army) fell in love with their own software," Hunter told Fox News. 

Hunter, a former Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, sees it as a life-or-death issue and has formally requested an investigation by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Lives are at stake," Hunter told Fox News. 

"The idea that ground combat units in Afghanistan are being denied intelligence tools that are requested and readily available is unsettling and underscores a major failure in a process that is intended to deliver resources to the warfighter as quickly as possible," Hunter wrote in a letter to the committee. "This is evidently a systemic problem that cannot go unaddressed." 

His office expects the investigation to be announced in the coming days. 

Seventy-two out of 187 American troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year were victims of improvised explosive devices. 

Meanwhile, the Army says it's working to integrate Palantir into more of its computer systems. But when asked about reports that it destroyed favorable reviews of Palantir, the Army responded with a written statement offering no explanation other than to say the matter is under investigation. That investigation is being conducted by an undisclosed three-star general, not the Army's inspector general which typically handles internal investigations. 

Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a press briefing Thursday that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is confident the Army investigation alone can handle the matter. 

Hunter disagrees. 

"Can we trust them? The answer is no," he said. 

Hunter pointed to stark differences between an April report on Palantir and second report in May written by Army officials.  In a memo to Fox News, Hunter's office dissects the two reports and demonstrates at least eight separate changes, most of which "downplay the overall capability of Palantir." 

Palantir is an intelligence software that works as an application on the Army's larger intelligence computer, known as the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). It uses pattern analysis, historical data and cell phone patterns to predict IED locations. Defense officials told Fox News that internal Army surveys show the software rates far better than its competitors, "mainly because it is so simple to use."