DoD Working to Combat IED Menace
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
IEDS have killed more than half of all those killed in Iraq and wounded more than 8,100 servicemembers, according to Pentagon statistics.
"I think probably this whole effort to defeat IEDs is one of the most important things that is taking place in the building," said Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, operations director at the Joint Staff during a Pentagon news conference, today.
DoD officials said they have come up with plans to increase the visibility and effectiveness of the Joint IED Defeat Task Force. The recommendations have been approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and will be briefed to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld soon, Conway said.
The proposal would add more people to the task force and place a three-star general in charge. Conway was quick to say this does not mean that the task force under Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel has not done a good job.
"There is no shortage of funding to the effort," Conway said. "There's no shortage of emphasis coming out of theater that encourages us to come to a solution. ... But it has been discussed that perhaps adding a three-star oversight to the effort might further enhance its ability to get things done."
The task force grew out of an Army effort begun soon after soldiers began taking casualties from these homemade bombs in Iraq. The devices are sometimes quite sophisticated: Tripwires, pressure plates, suicide bombers or remote triggers can set them off. And car bombs are another way to deliver IED attacks. The military will spend roughly $1.5 billion this calendar year alone on defeating the problem, Conway said.
There is no shortage of bomb-making material in Iraq. Saddam Hussein bought billions of dollars worth of ordnance and distributed it all over the country. Coalition and Iraqi soldiers and police are still finding and destroying vast arsenals of explosives.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz made the IED task force a priority and now-acting deputy Gordon England has continued it. "How this department can organize and manage the challenge that we face with IEDs has been one of signal import, reflected by the fact that the deputy secretary of defense has made it a priority," Di Rita said.
Officials said they have studied how armies handled the threat in the past. "If you go all the way back to the British experience in Northern Ireland, they had problems with it," Conway said. "The Israelis in northern Israel and Lebanon have had problems with it. And we've tried to study what their experiences were and to learn from that."
The task force is working in the United States and overseas to combat the threats these devices pose to servicemembers. Officials have studied how the devices are financed, made and used in combat - searching for a way to break the IED chain.
Force protection also plays a part and the military has provided better personal armor and armored vehicles, and devised tactics to defeat or to lessen the exposure to IEDs. "So we're looking at that whole facet associated with IEDs because it's the only tool the enemy really has left in order to be able to take us on and cause casualties," Conway said. "And when we defeat that one method, you know, it's over."
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