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ARLINGTON, Va. — The head of the organization tasked with defeating roadside bombs is leaving, a group spokeswoman said Tuesday. first reported that retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs was stepping down as head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization.

A JIEDDO spokeswoman confirmed the story Tuesday and said the move was part of a natural transition, not due to a lack of satisfaction in Meigs’ performance.

In December 2005, Meigs, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, was named head of efforts to thwart roadside bombs. In February 2006, the group became a permanent organization.

Meigs was originally supposed to lead JIEDDO for a year, but Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England asked him to stay longer, the spokeswoman explained.

The Defense Department is now looking for Meigs’ replacement and the transition is expected to take place in the next couple of months, the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said she did not know who the replacement candidates are.

For fiscal years 2006 and 2007, JIEDDO has been budgeted $7.9 billion to fight roadside bombs.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman praised Meigs for bringing a “comprehensive approach” to the Defense Department’s efforts to defeat roadside bombs.

“Gen. Meigs has made a valuable contribution to the tremendous progress that’s been made in defeating — countering and defeating — the IED threat,” Whitman said on Monday.

But JIEDDO has its critics, including U.S. Rep. James Moran, D-Va., who told the Christian Science Monitor earlier this year that JIEDDO was not spending money quickly enough.

Meigs told reporters in May that his group was not slow in spending money, explaining that the group typically spends about 60 percent of its money in the fourth quarter due to the supplemental process.

Other critics claim that efforts to fight roadside bombs have been hampered by bureaucratic infighting, and that JIEDDO’s authority is ill-defined.

But one think-tanker credits Meigs for finally focusing U.S. government efforts on defeating roadside bombs after initial “sluggishness.”

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the government was initially slow to take effective measures to counter roadside bombs because officials kept saying the plan was to withdraw from Iraq within six months.

With the help of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Congress, Meigs has finally been able to elevate the roadside bomb threat to the top tactical problem facing troops in Iraq, O’Hanlon said.

However, while JIEDDO has made huge progress, its efforts have been kept in check by the constantly changing roadside bomb threat, said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

For every advance in fighting roadside bombs that JIEDDO has produced, the enemy has come up with new options, forcing JIEDDO to “run as hard as they could to stay where they were,” said Thompson, paraphrasing British author Lewis Carroll.

Another expert said that although Meigs did all he reasonably could under difficult circumstances, the enemy still has the advantage in the roadside bomb battle.

Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said more armor and new technology to beat roadside bombs are only part of the solution.

It is up to commanders on the ground to hold areas to make it difficult for the enemy to plant roadside bombs, Krepinevich said.

“It seems to me that unless you can provide the enduring level of security and drive up the risk of planting these things that they can always build a bigger bomb.”


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