Guys in uniform bitch a lot. Especially when two military groups are tackling related jobs. Handling bombs is no different. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) guys think the engineers are constantly interfering in their work. The engineers say the EOD dudes are snobby and too secret squirrel for their own good.But, around Baghdad at least, the group causing the most friction seems to be the Pentagon's "Joint IED Defeat Task Force." While EOD techs have to scrounge around to buy their own belts, the Task Force has a billion dollar budget. And while bomb squadders spend a year in training, I saw completely green members of the Task Force wandering around bomb sites, picking stuff up at random. The engineers and the EOD techs took bets on whether or not they'd survive their tours of duty.Not that the Task Force folks had much nice to say about the bomb squads. "EOD has it pretty easy," one member told me.For most soldiers in Iraq, the Task Force's main contribution was "5-and-25." It's a mantra which means that soldiers should check 5 meters around their vehicles when they first get out, and then do a 25 meter sweep after that.Behind the scenes, and back in the States, the Task Force is also doing a bunch of technology development to try and slow down the seemingly-endless waves of improvised bombs hitting American forces. Several Task Force members have compared the effort to the Manhattan Project. But with the number of explosives on the rise, there's grumbling in Washington that the Task Force doesnt have the juice or the budget to justify the comparison, the L.A. Times notes. There's talk of replacing the Task Force, currently headed by a one-star general, with a new group that would have "an active-duty three-star general or admiral, or a retired four-star officer."
Some military officials complain that the Pentagon has made little progress in getting the White House to pressure agencies such as the CIA, FBI and Department of Energy to devote more resources and full-time personnel to the anti-IED effort. One difficulty they cite is that a one-star general tends to wield little influence in the government hierarchy."It's just amazing how long it takes for the bureaucracy to seriously tackle an issue, when some things should happen lickety-split," said a second senior Defense official.THERE'S MORE: It's Friday, and I'm feeling punchy and reckless. So here's a pic of me trying to handle an IED leftover.