JIEDDO: Effective Counter-IED Effort? November 9, 2009Posted by Trice Kabundi in Analysis.
Tags: Afghanistan, IEDs, JIEDDO
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), often makeshift bombs of fertilizer, fuel and metal, are the top killer of coalition forces in Afghanistan, causing 70 to 80 percent of the coalition force casualties. Insurgents know IEDs are effective, and are amplifying the quantity, size and strength of the bombs. As the IED problem grows, the role and impact of DOD’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in developing effective counter-IED policy has come into question.
JIEDDO was created in 2006 in response to the growing use of IEDs in Iraq. It was created as a joint organization to enhance coordination among DOD entities engaged in counter-IED strategy and to spearhead DOD’s investment in counter-IED R&D. Previous DOD investments had lacked such coordination and had been generally ad hoc in nature. Since that year, JIEDDO has spent more than $16 billion on the counter-IED effort.
According to JIEDDO Director LT. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, the tactics and technologies developed in part through JIEDDO helped reverse the damaging impact of IEDs in Iraq, but are proving inadequate in Afghanistan. There the IED threat is exacerbated by differences in terrain and technology. Afghanistan’s terrain has been described as “vast and wrinkled” and unforgiving. Coalition forces find it difficult to identify booby traps and concealed trip wires in the many unpaved dirt roads. In addition, American forces in Iraq could use jamming devices and unmanned aircraft to spot insurgents planting roadside bombs. In Afghanistan, the IEDs do not use radio frequencies that can be jammed, and are placed in terrain that complicates surveillance.
On October 29th the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on JIEDDO’s performance in light of the situation in Afghanistan and the lack of a reversal in the presence of IEDs. During the hearing, JIEDDO was criticized for being ineffective in light of the massive amount of funding received by the organization. Furthermore, a GAO report released the very same day identified many of JIEDDO’s challenges and shortcomings.
During the hearing, Representative Hunter criticized the Pentagon for promised yet unseen results of counter-IED programs and asked, “What are we going to do tomorrow to defeat IEDs so that we don’t have anymore IED deaths?” According to the GAO report and the analysis of other individuals, the majority of JIEDDO’s problems may be due to the organization’s structure, continuing weak coordination of counter-IED policy within the DOD, and limitations on JIEDDO’s influence in DOD planning.
According to the report there is no database at DOD that catalogues all counter-IED initiatives across the services. Services cannot always access JIEDDO-funded initiatives and JIEDDO has no authority to push the services to share information. According to Metz, one major cause of the lack of coordination is a “battle for funding” between JIEDDO and the services. These problems have created a counter-IED program with significant equipment duplication, where solutions are not distributed to all the stakeholders. In addition, JIEDDO is continuously at risk of developing initiatives that do not meet a service’s requirements.
JIEDDO’s ability to reform this duplicative system is limited. It cannot compel information-sharing. Its budget has begun to decline and is at risk as Overseas Contingency Operations budgets begin to migrate back into the Pentagon’s base budget.
According to Metz, “it is a long fight against IEDs in a world that’s going to have a lot of instability.” Combating such weaponry in unfamiliar and unforgiving terrain, as well as creating the technology and operational concepts that will diminish the severity and effectiveness of the attacks is a daunting and complex task. JIEDDO’s mission is complicated by its shortcomings and interagency challenges. The question remains whether the effective way to deal with this problem is to make JIEDDO a permanent organization with real authority, or to devolve its programs back to the services.