The Ground Truth Network (GTN) $2mln grant to EcoHealth Alliance is rather intriguing. Let’s go over it.
1.a The NBIC, the DHS and the US Intelligence Community (IC)
GTN was set up under the National Biosurveillance Integration Center (NBIC) which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), all part of the US Biological Defense Program.
The DHS is itself one of the non-military intel agencies in the US, via its Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A). [See JP 2.0 for a list of intel agencies and the role of the DHS in the Intelligence Community (IC)].
As per the NBIC Strategic Plan drafted in 2012, the NBIC had a new strategic objective of seeking new ‘private’ (so not open-source) foreign sources of information that would enhance coverage of critical biosurveillance gaps.
1.b The Ground Truth Network (GTN)
The description of the Ground Truth Network is available on GovTribe, starting with the main web page:
A more detailed description is in the main PDF available on GovTribe:
That document is also available here if one has any difficulty accessing GovTribe: NBIC.Ground_Truth_Network.2016.pdf.
[Note: the ‘Air Travel’ title in that official grant description document is likely an editing mistake (also note the page count issue). The whole document is just a general description of the Ground Truth Network. You can however see how the Air Travel piece would fit in from this. For context, see also the NBIC Strategic Plan (2012)]
1.c Tasks under the GTN:
Here is a high level description of the Ground Truth network the document gives:
The work is essentially information collection for the NBIC analysts.
Some of the sources may accordingly be confidential and may need to remain so. As with any intel evaluation, establishing the track record & credibility of the source is key.
Here is the work required under the GTN:
Specifically, the grant seems to be about delivering HUMINT (Human Intelligence) to NBIC / DHS.
The jobs described under the grant are:
- Handling RFIs (Request For Information):
RFI is standard intel language and part of the way requests are sent to the various entities and tracked while avoiding overlap. Basically take a very specific question, ask it to the relevant source, and get the answer back.
- Doing Written Products:
That means using some Subject Matter Expertise on top of info from sources to provide not just raw info but some analysis/evaluation. A Product is again standard intel phraseology and means a carefully crafted and reviewed assessment for the intel consumers where typically every word and turn of sentence matters. A simple answer to an RFI is normally not a Product.
All the vocabulary is precise intel language, and the process described is standard (including the emphasis on source evaluation, without which there is no reliable intel). Not surprising since the request comes from an intel agency (DHS).
Also to be clear, a collector that obtains non-public biothreat related information from a source in a one-to-one context — which is what Ground Truth seeks — is not engaging in open-source intelligence (OSINT).
As per the definition used by the Intelligence Community (IC), such a collector is instead engaging in human intelligence (HUMINT). All on behalf of its intel contractor (the NBIC / DHS).
2. The EHA Ground Truth grant
2.a Grant Details
Here is the EHA Ground Truth grant HSHQDC16C00113, which started in Sep 2016:
With the funding under the grant:
The details of the grant reveal a negotiated proposal/quote with allegedly three offers received in a full and open competition under the solicitation ID HSHQDC-16-R-00116.
I cannot find any other grant under HSHQDC-16-R-00116.
TheEmpower Oversight filled an FOI against the DHS about that EHA Ground Truth grant.
2.b Some names:
From the table above you can extract some names:
THE PURPOSE OF THIS ZERO DOLLAR MODIFICATION IS TO CHANGE THE CORE DUTIES FROM LCDR REAJUL MOJUMDER TO TERESA QUITUGUA EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. ALL OTHER TERMS AND CONDITIONS REMAIN THE SAME AND IN FULL EFFECT. PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE: 09/30/2016 TO 09/29/2017 CONTRACTING OFFICER’S REPRESENTATIVE: TERESA QUITUGUA TERESA.QUITUGUA@HQ.DHS.GOV 202–254–2438 SEE SCHEDULE
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Reajul Mojumder was managing that grant to EHA:
LCDR Reajul Mojumder, Project Officer
Bio-Preparedness Collaboratory, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction
Washington, DC 20528 US
Actually he seems to live in Frederick, Maryland (where DHS has an implementation, alongside other institutions such as USAMRIID):
He was replaced by Teresa Quitugua, deputy director and Chief Scientist of NBIC, Maryland.
3. Grant closure:
Note that the $2.1mln payable grant was close dout at $975k in Oct 21, 2 years before the maximum Oct 23 maturity. (‘Closed out’ means properly finished).
MODIFY CONTRACT HSHQDC-16-C-00113 BETWEEN DHS/CWMD/OHA AND ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE INC INCORPORATE THE FOLLOWING CHANGES: 1. DE-OBLIGATE FUNDS IN THE AMOUNT OF $31,658.43 FROM CLIN 0002 2. INCORPORATE CLOSEOUT CONCURRENCE LETTER AND CLOSEOUT
4. Key Questions:
4.a How did EHA spend the $975k?
How can you spend $975K doing that job?
It’s more than 4 full-time salaries for collecting info and writing the occasional report, doing the occasional call.
-> WHERE DID THE MONEY GO? <-
4.b What was the return on these $975k?
Clearly it did not help much. We got about just zero from EHA and its partners Quite the contrary we only got data retention, obfuscation or straight fantasies.