In this photo illustration the Palantir logo is displayed on a smartphone with coding on the background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is expanding Palantir’s AI-powered Maven Smart System “from hundreds” of users worldwide to “thousands” as part of a $480 million five-year contract, the company told reporters today.

Maven pulls together data of different classification levels from a vast array of sources — satellite intelligence on potential enemy targets, readiness reports from friendly units, social media posts on unfolding crises or misinformation — and puts it into a single, customizable interface for military planners, who can pick and choose what particular datasets they want to see or even code their own visualization tools on top. It’s been used in the Global Information Dominance Experiments developing a worldwide, all-service battle command network known as CJADC2. (It is possible, though not confirmed, that Maven is part of the operational “minimum viable capability” version of CJDAC2 that was announced by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks in February.)

Today, a prototype version of Maven Smart System is accessible to an elite group at US headquarters around the world, from the Joint Staff in the Pentagon to operational Combatant Commands. Those include: Central Command in the Middle East, European Command, Indo-Pacific Command, NORAD/Northern Command in the US and Canada, and the worldwide Transportation Command.

“When we kicked off this project — the prototype began in 2021 — we fielded it to a small set of users at each of those combatant commands [and] the Joint Staff,” said Shannon Clark, Palantir’s senior vice president for federal R&D. “Now this is offering an enterprise capability with essentially no user limit at those combatant commands.”

As of June 1, when the new contract’s $153 million initial task order goes into effect, the limit on maximum permitted users goes away. Any staff at the covered organizations whose work could benefit from Maven will be able to access it “immediately,” Clark said. The expected number of users will be “going from hundreds to thousands.”

And that’s just the initial $153 million increment. The full $480 million contract gives the Pentagon options to expand Maven Smart System access to other Combatant Commands — Clark wouldn’t speak for the military, but she suggested SPACECOM and STRATCOM as “a logical leap” — and to add new capabilities.

Palantir built Maven Smart System using what’s called an “open architecture,” meaning it’s designed to allow easy integration of software updates, upgrades and new features, even from other vendors. Palantir is working hard with smaller firms and subcontractors to help them plug-and-play their innovations into Maven and get past the government’s often-agonizing Authorization To Operate process.

“We want to harness some of the capabilities that they’re building [and] integrate them into the platform,” Clark said of the smaller players. “We want to bring the latest and greatest technology to this contract, we want to be able to integrate with any data system, any new AI capability that the government procures. … Should tomorrow a new sensor come online, should tomorrow a new AI capability come online, we want to be able to integrate with that.”

“That’s the beauty of commercial software,” she added. “We can get it up running in days and weeks, not months and years.”

Those updates should come quickly because of the groundwork Palantir and its partners have been laying for years. That’s required a tremendous, often tedious effort of getting access to different datasets, “cleaning” data to remove errors and artifacts, reformatting it to be read by previously incompatible systems, and building pipelines to bring all that data into Maven.

“Palantir’s bread and butter is data integration,” Clark told reporters. “The benefit of this contract is that they are going to be riding on the data integrations that we’ve been doing for the Department for a decade now.”

Palantir’s version of Maven evolved from the original and controversial Project Maven, which was launched in 2017 to use then-cutting edge artificial intelligence algorithms to find potential targets in “overhead imagery” — largely drone and satellite imagery — that was coming in too fast for harried human analysts. While Google (temporarily) dropped out of the program over anti-war objections from its workforce, other tech firms helped add more capabilities to Maven, with Palantir taking the lead with its prototype award in 2021.

The latest contract is a so-called “sole source” award, without competition, since the Pentagon officially determined no other company was capable of meeting its requirements.