Buying Regs Gumming Up IED Fight

Until American military chiefs start thinking and maneuvering faster than the guerillas they are fighting, this insurgency is never going to put fully under control. Pentagon-funded researchers are building new technologies to help the fight in Iraq. But the Defense Department is buying the goods with a "slow-moving 20th-century procurement system built for a different kind of enemy," the Wall Street Journal notes.jammers.jpg

Consider the case of the "jammer," a device about the size of a breadbox that blocks radio waves emitted from remote-control devices that rebels use to detonate roadside bombs.Last summer TMC Design Inc. signed a contract with the Army to deliver 845 "Warlock-S" jammers, built to interfere with certain explosion-triggering signals. [These appear to be different from the Warlock Red and Green jammers we've mentioned before -- ed.] ...When insurgents found a way around TMC's jammer, TMC approached the Army in March with a plan to upgrade the product so that it could block some of those "hard to kill" radio signals...The Army expressed interest, but it took two months to invite TMC to its lab to prove the upgrade worked against some of the signals -- a crucial step to making the change.One reason for the delay is that the Army was in the middle of preparing to award a new contract for the next generation of jamming devices. The contract could be valued at several hundred million dollars... [And] Army officials worried that TMC might have gained an unfair advantage over rivals competing for the larger contract, since it would have had advance access to the test chambers.This month, TMC was eliminated from the competition for that larger contract. It also was finally allowed to test the modified, or Warlock-S 1.5, jammer. The upgraded device performed well against several "hard to kill" radio frequencies the Army had identified in February when it first informed TMC that it needed a better device, the company said.But the TMC jammer couldn't block new frequencies that had appeared since the company was first told by the Army of the problem. "We took care of what we knew about. But there was some stuff we didn't know about that we couldn't handle," said TMC's Mr. Scoughton. (Thanks Eric for the tip)
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