Pentagon sees new IED offense as the best defense
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon is starting to focus more on offense — going after the insurgents who make the bombs — instead of defense, or the hardware that detects or jams the deadly devices right before they go off.
“We’re trying to get [ahead] of the bang,” Army Secretary Francis Harvey told reporters Thursday, the day before he resigned from his post under pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates over poor conditions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, director of the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, told Pentagon reporters Monday that JIEDDO will triple spending on offensive efforts, using 31 percent of the organization’s estimated fiscal 2008 budget of $4.4 billion, or $1.36 billion, compared to 13 percent, or $455 million, of the $3.5 billion fiscal 2007 budget.
“It’s kind of strategic common sense, really,” Meigs said. “In warfare, even if you perfect short-range defense, you’re going to lose.”
Meigs would not give details of what that offense entails, except to hint that it involves intelligence collection efforts.
“We’re obviously interested in what the bad guy is going to do next,” Meigs said.
Who will do that collecting, and how, remains a secret.
“If our enemy understands what we’re thinking about, it’s easy for them to template that” and use it to their advantage, Meigs said.
The IED task force was established in October 2003, with a $3 billion budget. Its job is to fund research and come up with recommendations to defeat the roadside bombs, the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces in Iraq and an increasing threat in Afghanistan.
Today, the task force has 295 staffers, with military representatives from each service, government civilians and contractors, Meigs said.
Two smaller task forces, Task Force Troy in Iraq and Task Force Paladin in Afghanistan, collect data to send back to JIEDDO and pass forward critical information to units, such as bomb design and the tactics of the insurgents.
As IEDs became more of a threat earlier in the Iraq conflict, the U.S. military’s immediate emphasis was to get troops into more heavily armored vehicles and provide devices that could jam the bomb’s radio-signal triggering devices.
The emergence in the past year of a new and extremely deadly type of roadside explosives called explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, has greatly increased the potential lethality of IEDs and erased much of the protective advantage offered by the extra armor.
The DOD task force is not giving up on trying to find technologies to defeat the bombs themselves, Meigs said. Sixty-two percent of the $4.4 billion budgeted in 2008, or $2.73 billion, will still be spent on research and hardware on the defense side of the task force’s counter-IED charter.
Meigs said one area that remains a challenge, especially when it comes to IED jammers, is busy electromagnetic atmospheres, particularly in and around Baghdad, a city buzzing with satellite, radio, cell phone and television transmissions.
“It’s a big problem,” Meigs said of busy electromagnetic fields. “A year and half ago, we didn’t understand how big a problem it was going to be.”