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Underspending IED Defense

Improvised Explosive Devices continue to kill and maim our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, these roadside bombs account for more deaths than any other weapon. The Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) is tasked with identifying and deploying measures address the problem. Last month, though, it was reported in the Christian Science Monitor, that the JIEDDO had underspent its Appropriated budget of $4 billion by 25%, raising questions among Congressional committee members. And yet, the JIEDDO is asking for 30 percent more for 2008.

Representative Jim Moran (D-Virginia). "I don't want to require [them] to spend it on things that are not necessary. But on the other hand, we need to figure out how to stop these deaths of these kids riding in convoys."

Montgomery Meigs, the retired Army four-star general who heads JIEDDO has indicated that much of the agency's budget is spent on "capabilities," he said. That includes communications, equipment, jammers to disrupt bomb-triggering devices, and some force protection equipment. The agency also spent $20 million on medical research in mitigating casualties from IED blasts. Nearly 10 percent of its budget is spent on training, Meigs said.

"We buy a lot of gear," Meigs said. "We invest in a lot of things that result in a capability."

The Senate Appropriations Committee in its markup of the bill to fund the war:

The Committee is concerned that the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization [JIEDDO] is operating under a broad directive from the Deputy Secretary of Defense that does not provide enough clarity and definition for its roles and authority within the Department of Defense. The Committee understands that a strategic plan has been under development for quite some time.
That is not to say that contracts aren't being awarded, as can been seen by this recent newsrelease from Defense Link.

One of the problems is that with each innovation to counter the IEDs, al Qaeda seems to be able to move one step further ahead. It is suspected that al Qaeda is could be acquiring its advanced electronic warfare technology from Iran, which also supplies the IEDs to Iraq’s Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. However, al Qaeda itself may be developing its own electronic capabilities. It may also be possible that a private entity outside Iran has contracted to develop al Qaeda’s counter-jammers for a price running into hundreds of millions of dollars. As previously noted here a Threatswatch, millions are available for the al-Qaeda mission.

The task is important and daunting. Finding a means to combat IEDs is essential to protecting our troops now and in future fields of battle.