The Technology Company Fighting Terrorism With Millennials

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For diehard fans of The Lord of the Rings series, “Palantir” is a familiar word. The Palantíri are the smooth dark spheres used by Saruman and others as seeing stones to communicate in Middle-earth.


Palantir Technologies, Inc. took its name from these fabled seeing stones. In 2003, it was founded by former cofounder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, with the mission to apply software similar to PayPal’s fraud-recognition systems “to solve the world’s hardest problems while simultaneously protecting individual liberty.” Palantir was originally funded, partially, through the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture-capital arm In-Q-Tel.

Palantir is self-described as “designed to make work energizing and to stimulate the best thinking.” The 9-to-5 work day doesn’t exist here. Palantir offers “a variety of perks that help us focus on the mission by promoting productivity and freeing up time at and away from the office.”

First, my entire adult life has been spent in the Marine Corps, so rigid hierarchies and uniformity is all I have ever known. Palantir could not be more different. During the few hours I spent touring the entire floor occupied by Palantir in its Georgetown location, I was at first struck by the casual nature of the workspace. By the end of my tour, I found that casual attire did not equate to a casual attitude about the importance of their work.

The entrance was sparse, but inviting. Think Japanese décor with minimal furnishings, symmetry, and translucent dividers. On two sides were walls of frosted glass. All I could see were quickly moving shadows rushing to and fro. During the few minutes I spent waiting for my guide, there was no time wasted by these shadow workers; they were all moving with a visible sense of purpose.

The amenities were exactly what one would imagine from a Silicon Valley tech firm, not that I have ever visited one. But I am a fan of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” The amenities include an on-site chef who prepares free food, gaming rooms, professional ping-pong table, open workspaces, sleeping rooms, razor scooters for office transportation, free laundry service, haircuts, and massages.

While there were many diversions available, I noted that few, if any, of the employees were just lingering about. They may grab a free gourmet meal, but they quickly returned to their workstation or meeting room.

There were no offices, everyone worked in open office spaces on adjustable computer desks --- some sitting, some standing, and some in between --- with at least two computers and three monitors at each workstation. All the programmers and technicians were wearing the latest headphones from Beats by Dre to Skullcandy, and feverishly typing and clicking away on their projects.

There were numerous small conference rooms, all with glass walls, and named after breakfast cereals. My personal favorite was the Franken Berry room. These rooms were all teeming with productivity. Groups of four to five programmers collaborating on their latest project.

From my unofficial tally, one in five programmers was not wearing shoes, though a pair of flip flops were kept close if needed. All were dressed in very casual attire. The majority wore Palantir t-shirts with jeans or shorts. I may have been the only person to ever don a tie in this place. I counted at least four dogs curled up on beds at their master’s feet. Evidently Palantir has a pro-pooch policy.

All of these amenities served a greater purpose: removing distractions and tedious tasks from employees to allow them to concentrate on their work. No need to worry about doing laundry or getting a haircut, you can have it done for you, for free, at work.

What separates Palantir from the herd of Silicon Valley tech firms is the importance of their work. These first-rate programmers could work at Facebook to ensure the most-relevant sponsored ads appear on user’s homepage or debugging Candy Crush.

What Palantir offers is the opportunity to work on the bleeding edge of technology and national security. There is also the challenge of tackling some of the most complex and important problems facing our nation. Teams of programmers were designing information platforms for the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, various law enforcement agencies, and numerous other public and private clients.

During my tour I was introduced to about a dozen employees. About one in four was a veteran. Almost all were young enlisted service members who had moved on to another challenge at Palantir after completing their initial enlistment.

By the end of my tour, I recognized just how committed to their work all the employees were. I spent no more than two minutes speaking with any individual, of the dozen programmers I was introduced to. I could feel that each was anxious to return to his or her task. That is not to say any of them were rude or dismissive, it was just that their desire to return to their project was palpable.

While this group did not have the snap and pop, or fresh haircuts, of a military unit; there was the same underlying feeling of dedication and purpose of mission. Everyone was clearly working toward a common goal. Their dedication to duty was as tangible as in any military unit I served in during my Marine Corps career.

By the end of my brief tour, I was envious of these teams of highly educated, enthusiastic, and accomplished young programmers and technicians. I left my tour wanting to be a member of this dedicated and industrious group of individuals. Unfortunately I lack the requisite programming skills, and at age 43, I think I am about a decade too old to work there.

For a young veteran looking for a new challenge while continuing to serving our nation, Palantir is an excellent choice.

In addition to possible employment with Palantir, the company has joined with the Center for a New American Security using Palantir Metropolis to analyze the needs of U.S. veterans.

Watch a video of the findings from the partnership below.

Sipa via AP Images
(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alexandria Crawford)

A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.

The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."

Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.

What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.

"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."

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The F-35 Joint Strike Program may be the most expensive weapons program in modern military history, but it looks as though the new border wall is giving the beleaguered aircraft a run for its money.

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(Associated Press/Austin American-Statesman/Jay Janner)

A Texas judge has ruled that a negligence lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense filed by victims of the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017 can go forward.

The suit meets the criteria to fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek damages in certain cases if they can prove the U.S. Government was negligent, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Under most circumstances the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from lawsuits, but in this case U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez held that failure of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to log shooter Devin Kelley's history of mental health problems and violent behavior in an FBI database made them potentially liable.

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Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- Loose lips sink ships, but do they reveal too much about the hugely anticipated "Top Gun" sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," filmed onboard in February?

Not on this carrier, they don't. Although sailors here dropped a few hints about spotting movie stars around the ship as it was docked in San Diego for the film shoot, no cats — or Tomcats — were let out of the bag.

"I can't talk about that," said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who commands the Roosevelt.

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(Reuters/Henry Nicholls)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department unveiled 17 new criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, saying he unlawfully published the names of classified sources and conspired with and assisted ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining access to classified information.

The superseding indictment comes a little more than a month after the Justice Department unsealed a narrower criminal case against Assange.

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