The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization is beginning to look beyond the IED threat in Afghanistan and consider how it may assist combatant commanders around the globe, a JIEDDO official said last week.
The Defense Department has taken a close look at all its organizations created after the Sept. 11 attacks to make sure they will remain relevant after U.S. troops leave Afghanistan in 2014, JIEDDO defeat branch chief Cdr. Cedric Richardson told a group at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's military robotics summit on Aug. 29 in Alexandria, VA. While he is confident JIEDDO has a place in DOD post-2014 -- to rapidly field counter-IED tools closely tailored to individual missions -- Richardson said the organization would need to keep up with the shifting geographical priorities and types of threats facing the military.
"As we kind of grow as an organization and consider in 2014 we're done with Afghanistan . . . where can we offer assistance to [U.S. Pacific Command]? Where can we offer assistance to [U.S. Africa Command]?" he said. "And of course continue to support [U.S. Central Command] and the Arabian Gulf in the water-borne realm," he added, noting that JIEDDO had already begun three water-borne initiatives.
The water-borne IED threat is also catching the attention of the Navy, and the Expeditionary Warfare Division in particular. Talking at the same conference on Aug. 28 about the Navy's explosive ordnance disposal units and their use of robotics, division deputy director Rear Adm. Frank Morneau said that the limpet mine threat -- an enemy diver placing a magnetic mine on the bottom of a ship -- is one of the toughest problems the Navy faces.
Countering the threat involves working underwater, finding a small item on a large ship surface, rushing to beat thedevice's timer, and other environmental and technical challenges. The Navy is working on a solution to the limpet mine problem -- a Hull Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Localization System (HULS) -- but Morneau said explosive ordnance threats are always evolving and are not going away any time soon.
"For the last 50 years, EOD guys have been trying to build robots to go downrange," he told Inside the Navy after his presentation, noting that those efforts have spanned several wars and that the EOD robotics mission wouldn't go away when Afghanistan ends either. "We can't fight the last war, we gotta fight the next war, as we've always learned. So I'd say we take our lessons learned . . . and we expand that into the next generation of our kit."
Both Morneau and Richardson said that countering water-borne mines in a domestic situation would fall on the Navy, so other government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were keeping an eye on the Navy and JIEDDO's efforts in this area.
Given how quickly the IED threat can change, both technologically and geographically, Richardson said there was plenty of work to be done and therefore he wasn't concerned about the fate of his organization after 2014.
"Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only places IEDs are occurring," he said at the conference. "So it's not a problem-set that's going to go away when Afghanistan and Iraq go away. It's enduring, and we feel it's going to be an enduring threat, a capability out there any anybody, any non-state actor, will use in the future to kind of basically make a message."