Wars wind down, but counter-IED agency sees more bombings

Global nature of bomb threat validates agency efforts, Barbero says

The war in Afghanistan may be winding down, but that isn’t stopping the Defense Department’s anti-improvised explosive device agency from planning for a future that virtually promises continuously evolving bomb threats.

The Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) has released its 2012-2016 strategic plan, a document that lays out the threat environments of yesterday, today and tomorrow and the agency’s priorities for combating IEDs. The plan emphasized the need to capture and employ lessons learned over the last decade in Southwest Asia, as well as the importance of focusing on the people behind the IED threat and using integrated approaches in the counter-IED fight.

“When discussing future threats, it is important we consider both the net­works that employ IEDs as well as the device itself. The IED is the weapon of choice for the overlapping consortium of networks operating along the entire threat continuum — criminal, insurgent and terrorist alike,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, JIEDDO director, wrote in the plan.

In the plan, JIEDDO pointed out the increasingly global nature of IED use, which has spread into places such as Thailand, Norway, and the United States in incidents such as the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building and the failed Times Square bombing in May 2010. The strategy said between last January and November, IEDs killed 12, 286 people in 6,832 bombing incidents across 111 countries. Of those, 28 people died in 490 incidents inside U.S. borders, the plan said.

JIEDDO warned that IEDs may further make their way onto the U.S. soil, and DOD must prepare for a counter-IED fight at home.

The plan centers on five principal goals: rapidly identify, validate and prioritize immediate and future counter-IED requirements; provide operations and intelligence fusion; rapidly seek, develop and acquire counter-IED solutions; lead DOD counter-IED training, and build a joint, interagency, intergovernmental and international community of action.

But missing from JIEDDO’s strategic plan are at least two key factors: the program’s funding and a future plan of action.

In terms of the latter, the plan notes than an action plan “will be available upon completion,” without giving more specifics.

As for funding, JIEDDO has largely been funded through overseas contingency operation (OCO) budgets, or DOD’s war coffers. For fiscal 2013, proposed OCO funding was slashed by more than $26 billion – almost a quarter less than 2012 – and JIEDDO-specific funding dropped from $2.4 billion in fiscal 2012 to $1.7 billion in fiscal 2013.

Although a mention of the loss of funding may be absent in the new JIEDDO plan, the agency’s leaders haven’t shied away from recognizing that major changes are headed their way.

At a recent conference, Navy Cmdr. Jack Downes, JIEDDO integration branch chief, acknowledged that DOD’s current counter-IED environment will be transforming.

“JIEDDO is in a unique position…right now it’s exceptionally resourced to combat IEDs, but it’s highly predictable that come 2014, when the armed fighting in Afghanistan and overseas contingency operations funding are cut dramatically, there won’t be a lot left for JIEDDO to help anyone continue to sustain this fight,” he said.

But although Downes said JIEDDO in its current incarnation may not be around forever, he was confident that combating IEDs has been sufficiently institutionalized in DOD to continue the fight.

That sentiment is echoed by Barbero in the plan's foreword.

“While we are never going to stop all IEDs, a holistic, decisive, whole-of-government approach will significantly impact the effect the IED has in future operations and to our domestic security,” he wrote.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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