Combat Support Agency Counters Worldwide IED Threats
By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2015 – The organization that has fought for a decade to defeat improvised explosive devices used by American enemies in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has become a combat support agency, its director said in a recent interview.
The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization -- known as JIEDDO -- was realigned under the defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics March 11 and is “here to stay,” Army Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson told DoD News.
Johnson said he wants to ensure every commander and warfighter is aware of the agency’s capabilities to support those in the field.
Johnson added that DoD’s senior leadership recognized that the global threat of IEDs is not going away, and that the agency’s new status means the capabilities it provides will be around a long time.
As a Defense Department function, the general said, the agency has better access to other DoD capabilities to “collaborate and to make sure we’re providing even better support to deployed service members.”
JIEDDO Established During Wars
Johnson said the need for JIEDDO became great when IEDs were killing and injuring large numbers of service members, and JIEDDO stood up as a joint organization from an Army task force in 2006 at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The military realized it needed an organization to work across the entire spectrum of the problem by analyzing IED threats and developing training and new equipment for warfighters, he added.
Today, “we track IEDs around the world, and in past 12 months, over 26,000 IED events caused 55,000 casualties,” the JIEDDO director pointed out.
“Gratefully, very few were Americans,” he added, “but it means that anywhere U.S. troops deploy, they are going to be at risk of IEDs.”
JIEDDO works to connect a variety of IED experts early within deploying units’ training cycles, Johnson said, so warfighters are knowledgeable of terrorist networks and the types of battlefield support the combat support agency will provide them.
Embedding Experts with Troops
JIEDDO experts range from intelligence analysts, operational experts, and combat advisers that offer training and adaptable solutions to warfighters and forces building allies’ capacities to improve counter-IED efforts, Johnson said.
These experts embed with U.S. forces from the start of deployment, regardless of assignment, from maritime crisis response forces, the Army’s regionally aligned forces or special operations, the general said.
Embedding experts helps troops and commanders understand what they’re seeing and how best to use the resources at their disposal to deal with threats, protect forces and defeat the enemy, he said.
JIEDDO a ‘Game Changer’ After Wars
JIEDDO brought a game changer to the table after its work during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which it provided a warfighter package of urgently needed training, analytical support and equipment to counter IED threats, the general said. Today, those capabilities reach across the globe, he added.
“We can apply the analysis to new training techniques, new tactics, equipment, and significantly enhance how our ground forces do business,” he said. “We help warfighters adapt.”
A key issue of IED proliferation by a variety of terrorist networks is that these homemade bombs use products such as fertilizer and cheap, commercial-grade explosives used in farming and mining, so the materials are available just about anywhere, Johnson pointed out.
Compounding the expanding IED global presence is that terrorist networks share information, he said.
“The enemies are very innovative, and they share their ideas and innovations. If we see IEDs that have success in one place, we can guarantee you we’re likely to see it elsewhere,” Johnson said.
And it’s that very type of information JIEDDO shares with forces deployed around the world so warfighters are better prepared and equipped to handle the problem, in addition to having reachback to national level resources, the director explained.
‘Global IED Threats to Continue’
There was some thought that JIEDDO might cease to exist following the end of the two wars, Johnson said, but that is not the case.
“The truth is, we’re going to face IEDs anywhere we go in the world,” he emphasized. “IEDs have proliferated around the world, and they challenge security forces across the globe. Now we’re back helping the Iraqis with the problems there, and our enemies are using IEDs in greater numbers all the time.”
Because of that global threat, JIEDDO’s business model is well entrenched for efforts in the Middle East, but also counters the IED threat in various other regions of the world such as Africa, South America, the Far East and the Pacific region, Johnson said.
JIEDDO’s mission is far-reaching, but has a central goal, he said.
“We provide counter-IED capabilities that allow [service members] to adapt and be that No. 1 weapon on the battlefield,” said Johnson, who described service members as “the most trained, most capable weapon.”