Improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents have killed thousands of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan



The Pentagon spent millions on initiatives to counter improvised explosive devices without showing whether or not they are effective on the battlefield.

The agency leading efforts at the Department of Defense to help warfighters defeat IEDs spent over $112 million on eight initiatives “without showing evidence” that the solutions are effective, according to an inspector general report released on Tuesday.

The watchdog audited the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency, known as JIDA, focusing on its counter-IED initiatives, discovering that several initiatives managed by the agency did not have completed assessments proving their capabilities on the battlefield.

“JIDA was unable to complete required assessments on the eight initiatives because not enough data were available to analyze,” the inspector general wrote in the partially redacted report. “Therefore, JIDA could not document how well the equipment it furnished through these initiatives performed.”

The Pentagon has struggled to develop tools to defeat IEDs, which have been widely used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly 3,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had been killed by IEDs and over 30,000 wounded as of December 2013, according to a report in USA Today. JIDA spent $1.6 billion on nearly 100 different initiatives to counter IEDs between 2012 and 2015.

On Tuesday, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine commandant, said that forces are essentially using “farm tools” to clear IEDs and mines from their paths.

“One of the areas we still need to work harder on is the clearance of mines in shallow water, surf zone, and on the craft landing zone. You’ve got to get ashore somewhere and we’re still pretty much like we are with IEDs [using] farm tools and we’ve got to do better,” Neller told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., when asked about equipment innovation.

“There are two ways to find IEDs and mines. There’s the right way, which is to see it and avoid and then there’s the wrong way, which is to hit it. I prefer the first,” Neller continued.

ISIS militants have most recently leveraged IEDs, sourcing materials from several countries and building the weapons for use on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. U.S. special operators are currently deployed to each country to advise local forces fighting the terror group.

“IS forces have manufactured and deployed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) across the battlefield on a quasi-industrial scale,” the London-based Conflict Armament Research wrote in a February investigative report, using another name for the group. “Responsible for a large number of civilian and military casualties, these improvised bombs endanger and significantly delay ground operations against IS positions, while threatening the safe return of displaced populations. Made of components that are cheap and readily available, IEDs have become IS forces’ signature weapon.”

JIDA, the agency developing counter-IED tools, receives feedback and support from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, and the Army G-38. In the report released Tuesday, the inspector general faulted officials at the Joint Chiefs of Staff for not ensuring that the services and combatant commanders who used the counter-IED solutions completed assessments of the equipment after it was delivered to them for demonstration.

The inspector general also found that Army Test and Evaluation Command terminated a team responsible for collecting and reporting data on counter-IED solutions because of force reductions, which resulted in JIDA not having enough information to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the initiatives.

Agency personnel also did not follow established protocol for six other counter-IED initiatives—costing nearly $450 million—reviewed by investigators.

In one case, JIDA spent $6.1 million developing a communication software prototype to collect IED detection information and transferred it to the Army for use without proving it effective. The Army spend $10.9 million over two years on the prototype, only to determine that the costs to implement it were “not worth the capabilities” that it would provide.

For all six initiatives in question, the agency did not complete and record required documentation in its central computer database. Such management failings had been documented by the Government Accountability Office as far back as 2010, but the agency has failed to correct them.

The inspector general concluded that the agency needs to improve its assessment and documentation of initiatives to counter IEDs, and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff must take steps to make sure that officials complete assessments of counter-IED measures.

The audit was mandated by Congress through annual defense legislation.