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DoD Taps Industry Know-How in Ongoing Counter-IED Efforts

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2006 – Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England called on what he called some of the best minds in the country today to help come up with new solutions to the threat improvised explosive devices pose to U.S. troops.

Speaking to some 600 leaders from industry, academia, the national laboratories and all branches of the military at a two-day industry conference focused on the IED threat, England challenged participants to find better ways to counter what has become terrorists' weapon of choice in Iraq and, more recently, Afghanistan.

"We owe it to the troops," he told the group.

IEDs are the leading cause of U.S. combat deaths and injuries in Iraq, the deputy said. Every IED attack represents an attack, not just against the troops, but also against the will of the American people, he said.

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and the National Defense Industrial Association are cosponsoring the two-day IED conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to exchange information and explore solutions. In addition to briefing industry leaders about current and evolving challenges, defense and military leaders at the forum are encouraging participants to help come up with new ways to confront IEDs.

But technical solutions alone won't resolve the IED problem, England told the group. Defeating IEDs requires new technology, new tactics, new techniques and new training methods, he said. Because the enemy is so adaptable in using these devices, the technologies, tactics, techniques and training designed to counter them have to be adaptable, too, England said.

The IED industry forum comes days after DoD gave permanent status to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force and represents another step in the ongoing counter-IED effort. England signed a memo Jan. 18 that elevates the task force former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz established in mid-2004 to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

The status change is designed to help the group operate more effectively as it carries out what defense officials acknowledge has come to be viewed as a long-term mission that continues to expand to better meet the threat.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appointed a retired four-star general to lead the organization and bring what he called "a senior commander's operational perspective to the overall IED effort." Retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe and NATO's peacekeeping force in Bosnia, took control of the IED task force in early December.

Under Meigs' leadership, the newly named Joint IED Defeat Organization will continue to expand the scope of its efforts. That includes the establishment of a new IED center of excellence at Fort Irwin, Calif., to take lessons learned in Iraq and develop strategies to defeat IEDs, England said in his Jan. 18 memo. The center will also provide a venue for integrating, training, experimenting and testing new IED defeat equipment and concepts, he wrote.

Satellite centers will be housed at each of the services' major training installations, officials said. The center will be crucial in linking U.S. training centers with troops in theater, to share lessons learned, strategies and concepts, a senior military official told reporters on background in early December.

"This is meant to be a defeat of the entire IED system," the official said. "We want to make sure that we continue and do even a better job of sharing the best practices amongst all of our troops, our forces that are deployed, and also on the training end of this."

These latest developments are part of DoD's ongoing efforts to address the challenges IEDs pose, officials said. Since October 2003, the department's IED initiative has evolved from an Army organization of about 12 people to a joint task force to a permanent joint organization with $3 billion committed to the effort. The Joint IED Defeat Organization is made up of representatives from all services as well as retirees, all dedicated full-time to defeating the IED threat. "We are reaching out to get the very, very best people that we can, get them involved in this and then keep them involved in this so that we ... preserve continuity of the effort," the senior official said.

IEDs are not the new threat that many perceive them to be and actually have been used all over the world for decades. One of the first coordinated, large-scale uses of the devices was during World War II, when Belarusian guerillas used them against the Nazis to derail thousands of Nazi trains.

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