Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Solving the IED Puzzle

A recent Pentagon news release discussed the threat posed by improvised explosive devices in Iraq:

The only remaining effective tool that the Iraqi insurgency has against coalition forces is the improvised bomb, said Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita. Once US and coalition forces find a way to eliminate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), "it's over," he told reporters at a November 3 Defense Department briefing (click here for a full transcript).

Di Rita said experts are looking at ways to defeat the devices: greater protection for troops through better armored vehicles, up-to-date training for soldiers so they can anticipate when and how the bombs will be used, and soliciting more sophisticated human intelligence to find the IEDs before they are detonated.

A special IED task force has been working on the problem since 2004 and has a 2005 budget of more than $1 billion to find novel ways to defeat the IEDs.

Now, this is all well and good, but the Pentagon has been throwing money at this problem for quite some time, trying a variety of different technologies to tackle the IED threat. Trouble is, there is, as eDefense Senior Editor Ted McKenna put it in the title of a recent article, "No Silver Bullet for IEDs." It's going to take a variety of methods to deal with the variety of IEDs being employed by insurgents in Iraq -- from Warlock jammers to directed-energy devices like the Joint IED Neutralizer. Still, however, IEDs continue to be a serious threat to US forces in Iraq, because building a roadside bomb can be all to easy.

The success of technologies to defeat IEDs is ephemeral, because the development of such technologies lags behind the rapidly evolving IED threat. The best way to address this threat, then, may not be pouring more money into technologies to defeat it, but to stop the bombers before they can't plant their deadly devices -- in short, shut the bomb factories.


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