I.E.D. Task Force's Growing Pains


Tomorrow's Newsweek has a recap of the IED threat in Iraq that's well worth a read. Most of the elements of Michael Hastings' story will be familiar to regular Defense Tech readers: the article opens with Capt. Greg Hirschey, the head of the Baghdad Bomb Squad, moves quickly to the tragic passing of Staff Sgt. Johnnie Mason, and then goes on to cover Warlock jammers, shaped charges, infrared triggers, and the like. But there are a few, choice, behind-the-scenes tidbits, on the creation of the Pentagon's Joint IED Task Force, that I haven't seen anywhere before:56003232_JM_2043_79CBCF23C6527A807217E89A459CF1E4.JPG

The civilian leadership of DoD agreed and let it be known that money would be no obstacle. A new Joint IED Task Force was duly convened under Army leadershipand immediately bogged down in bureaucracy. The first meeting was chaired by an Army two-star general and attended by a Navy two-star admiral, many one-star Army and Air Force generals, and "more colonels than you could count," according to a participant who requested anonymity because he was discussing a secret meeting. About an hour and a half was spent discussing the transfer to the Army of four bomb-sniffing dogs belonging to the Air Force. The cost of flying the dogs to Iraq was $35,000, but "at the end of that time, there was not a soul in the room who could say, 'I will give you the money'," a participant recalled. It was a harbinger. "We were hamstrung from the beginning by an inability to actually do anything," said another participant in the meeting. (Pentagon spokesman Whitman says that "our efforts against IEDs grew as the threat grew.")Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was frustrated by the slow progress, according to a knowledgeable official who requested anonymity because he was divulging sensitive matters. Wolfowitz hoped to use interservice rivalry to spur some competition. The Air Force had begun a "Project Eyes" to fly a plane, equipped with sensors, over Iraq looking for buried munitions. The equipment was sensitiveit kept overheating over the desert, forcing the plane to retreat to cooler altitudesbut it showed that hidden caches could be found. Wolfowitz was so fed up with what he saw as the Army's inertia that he asked Air Force Secretary James Roche to brief the rival branch. "Paul wanted to shame the Army into action," says an official involved in the operation who declined to be identified.
UPDATE 03/20/06 2:12 PM: If you squint really, rrrrreeeealllly hard, you can see this site cited in the print edition of the Newsweek story.
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