An asymmetric threat invokes strategic leader initiative: the joint improvised explosive device defeat organization research paper

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AY 2006-2007





The Industrial College of the Armed Forces

National Defense University

Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. 20319-5062



This study evaluates the effect of an asymmetric threat, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), on strategic leader initiative during the “Long War”. The Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) was established by the Department of Defense (DOD) to “defeat (IED) as weapons of strategic influence”.   DOD’s military response, by itself, lacks sufficiency and JIEDDO’s success remains elusive. The hostile use of IEDs worldwide persists, and will likely continue, without a national mandate dictating greater interagency (IA) involvement. This paper suggests a more committed IA constituency will lead to better collective performance, potentially resulting in success. The observations of the former operations officer of JIEDDO offers a portfolio of lessons to enable organizational effectiveness when responding to anomalous conditions.

COL W. G. Adamson, USA

Industrial College of the Armed Forces

National Defense University

Dr. John Bokel

An Asymmetric, Strategic Form of Fires

Explosives are the safest weapon for the Mujahideen. Using explosives allows us to escape enemy personnel and to avoid being arrested. In addition, explosives strike the enemy with sheer terror and fright.”

- (Al Qaeda statement quoted from “Encyclopedia Jihad, Version 4”)
The United States (US) currently engages an adversary cloaked in an ancient ideology in a war it failed to fully envision. The prevalent global threat comes from autonomously networked, non-state actors, like Al Qaeda, motivated by ideology, mistrust of the West, and disapproval of international governance. The strategy of hostile forces presents evolving asymmetries confronting the will of the American public as the “center of gravity” to democratic ideology. Assassinations, kidnappings, beheadings, suicide attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) represent the tactics employed in a “global insurgency”. (Barno, 2006) This paper relates a chronological account of the DOD response to one of these tactics, the IED, by recounting the formation of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

DOD’s military response to the IED threat, by itself, is inadequate, and JIEDDO’s mission “to defeat IEDs as weapons of strategic influence” remains elusive because of insufficient interagency (IA) support. National tunnel-vision with the war in Iraq restricts JIEDDO’s capacity to broaden the national effort on the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The terrorist and insurgent use of IEDs worldwide persists, and will likely continue, absent a national mandate dictating greater IA involvement.

A more committed IA constituency will greatly benefit the IED effort. Greater IA contributions to a national IED effort, particularly among the intelligence community (IC) and law enforcement agencies could result in better collective performance, potentially achieving success. Current IA participation in the IED effort is a testimony to the entrepreneurial leadership at JIEDDO. Organizational theory addresses the difficulties of synchronizing complex organizational endeavors when functions are not viewed as essential.

Organizational theory suggests that organizations are created in order to accomplish certain missions….Organizations favor policies that will increase the importance of their organization, fight for capabilities that they view as essential to their essence, seek to protect those capabilities viewed as essential, and demonstrate comparative indifference to functions not viewed as essential. (Nagl, 2002, pp. 4-5)

Because DOD’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan centralizes JIEDDO support properly on the Combatant Commander the IED effort reflects an imbalanced military-centric approach. As a result of counterinsurgency experience, military commanders learned and the DOD adapted its institutional response to the hostile use of the IED. The military’s learning curve outpaces other government agencies in regards to the IED response. Meanwhile, the hierarchical, ad hoc IA process lacks a comprehensive strategy for defeating the global IED threat because it is not viewed as essential to their collective or unilateral missions. Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager’s experience in Afghanistan led him to state of the IA, “…coordination has been haphazard and ad hoc, particularly at lower levels. Action is required; the system will not improve by itself.” (Mansager, p. 80)

A modest prototype effort expanding the scope of IA involvement on the IED problem could validate integration concepts and processes for a subsequent broader IA reform effort. Divergent IA authority, tribal-like organizational cultures, and bureaucratic reluctance inhibits full or comprehensive participation in the IED effort. The same could be said of the four military Services during the formative stages of DOD’s IED response. However, existing law, the Goldwater-Nichols Act, dictating a Joint Service organizational structure and joint warfare concept enabled the military to overcome inadvertent friction and Service biases. The release of the Iraq Study Group report November 2006, recommended a Goldwater-Nichols model for training and conducting joint operations across IA boundaries. (Iraq Study Group [ISG], 2006) The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recommended government reform of the IA process along the line of Goldwater-Nichols. The notion of building operational capacity within the IA that approaches the capability of DOD’s joint organizational concept underpins the recommendations in the Beyond Goldwater-Nichols study by CSIS. (Murdock, C & Flournoy, M, 2005, p. 8)

The IED threat required a rapid response, invoking initiative on the part of strategic leaders and organizational adaptation. An account of the strategic adjustments, organizational initiatives, and processes enacted during the creation of JIEDDO illustrates senior leader initiative. Highlighting organizational “best practices” allows development of a portfolio of lessons observed. A review of the scope of the IED problem provides operational context for the subsequent development of lessons observed.

Scope of the IED Problem

The havoc caused by the use of IEDs began in the first few months following the end of major combat in Iraq. Initially, IEDs did not concern military forces. Following the end of major combat, loosely coordinated direct fire engagements constituted the major form of enemy attack in Iraq. The overwhelming firepower and accuracy of US and Coalition military forces in direct fire engagements caused rapid adjustment of enemy tactics. Indirect fire attacks, primarily from mortars and rockets, quickly became the enemy’s desired form of contact, targeting forward operating bases (FOBs) and Iraqi government facilities. As US counter-battery fires became more effective, a new tactic emerged as the preferred enemy form of fire, the Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. The term, IED, entered the popular lexicon of the US military during what was originally planned as the stabilization and reconstruction phase of the Iraq War.

Numerous definitions exist for the IED. Simply stated, a bomb-maker modifies the characteristics of munitions, explosives, or substances with explosive properties in a homemade fashion, creating an IED. (Global Security.Org/military/intro/ied.html) IEDs can be constructed and delivered to their targets in many different ways. Used for hundreds of years, recent examples of IED attacks range from the truck bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983, to the ship-borne attack against the USS Cole in 1999. The successful aerial IED attacks on September 11, 2001 produced a Presidential response with an intense focus on homeland security resulting in the reorganization of 22 federal agencies under the Department of Homeland Security. However, as the US opted to expand the GWOT into Iraq the most pervasive form of IED became the roadside bomb and car bomb.

Few experiences compare with the helplessness felt by those involved in an IED attack. The experience is searing. An IED attack has many of the attributes of a sniper ambush. There’s no emotional build-up prior to an attack, such as: the anxiety prior to an assault, the sound of preparatory artillery fire, or the rumble of a tank formation en route to a meeting engagement with enemy armor. IEDs are weapons of surprise. An IED victim vaults from relative calm to chaos in the blink of an eye. The IED strikes unexpectedly like the piercing crack of a sniper rifle. The blast from an IED has indiscriminate, constituent effect. No attacker is readily apparent. This relative anonymity offers advantage to hostile forces. The combination of these ingredients: helplessness, surprise, calm before chaos, indiscriminate effect, collateral damage, and anonymity of the attacker contribute to tactical anxiety. Personal involvement with IED attacks begins with the response to a scene of a suspected IED and often moves onto casualty evacuation. Later, personal involvement extends to discussions with victims, patients convalescing and coping with daily rehabilitation from wounds. The sense of urgency felt on the battlefield or in the amputee wards enters living rooms via nightly news coverage. Images of IED attacks invoke strategic influence over the public, a public otherwise physically dislocated from combat. The strategic power of the IED comes from a non-kinetic source, information.

America’s adversaries operate in and exploit the information environment. Blast effects from IEDs are sensational on film, indiscriminate in the collateral damage they cause, create a climate of fear in the public, and have a psychological impact on military forces. IEDs present a new and asymmetric form of fires with a tactical effect much like artillery; however, the kinetic effect produces psychological anxiety as well as strategic influence. IEDs become “weapons of strategic influence” because images of IED attacks impact the psyche of the American public through daily news broadcasts. Hostile forces count on “sound bite” deep analysis from the media and the American electorate, seeking to overcome the US technological and military advantage with this asymmetric form of fires. The resultant draining effect exhausts national will and commitment. Oscar Wilde once said, “In America the President reigns for four years, and journalism governs for ever and ever. (Wilde 1881/Torricelli 2001, p. 177) The adversaries of the US in the GWOT exploit this reality well. Curtailing the informational power exploited by global insurgents through images of IED attacks calls for a wider application of all elements of national power, not exclusively military force.

In operational terms, IEDs presents an asymmetric threat to Coalition Forces for two reasons: first, they represent a new method of attack that conventional capabilities were unprepared to address, and second, the IED was something not fully understood. (Skelton, 2004) Hostile forces do not develop innovative technologies through conventional research and development (R&D) programs. Attackers employ decades old insurgent techniques with available Industrial Age weapons. In short, terrorist and insurgents modify commercially available equipment and adapt tactics at a rate that bureaucratic, hierarchical organizations cannot keep pace with. Are IEDs, as some suggest, just a symptom of the general problem of insurgency and or terrorism? One cannot consider terrorism and insurgency without considering the IED. The following quote from an Al-Qaeda document highlights this terrorist organization’s reliance on the IED.

Al-Qaeda doctrine acknowledges that the production of different types of bombs and explosives must be mastered, but adds this is not difficult because the ways to do this are available and explained in many places people with experience[are] many in number in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere." (
Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as leaders in the Pentagon, confronted by the rising insurgency which challenged security and stability in the region adjusted operational tactics. GEN Richard Cody, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, recognized “the IED is the poor man’s cruise missile.” (Lovelace & Votel, 2005, p. 34) IED components are readily available, inexpensive, have relatively simple construction, and offer easy delivery to a target area. Proliferation in the use of IEDs by hostile forces continue. Given the widespread, de-centralized nature, and asymmetry of the IED problem, US forces have had difficulty progressing from a reactive operational mode. Moreover, the malignancy carried by the IED spans all levels of war.

The terrorist and insurgent use of IEDs resulted in a response from the tactical to strategic level of war. The initial response in theater followed a technically oriented approach rather than a holistic strategy. Initially, commanders categorized the IEDs as a problem for either an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team, or Engineers, vice a new form of fires for ground commanders to address. (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006)

360 Degree Warfare and the IED Phenomenon

Gaining an appreciation of the early tactical and operational impact of the IED provides greater awareness of the scope of change required by the IED. Terms common to maneuver warfare such as: meeting engagement, screen, delay, and movement-to-contact, pale in significance to a new lexicon associated with “360 Degree Warfare”. The concept of a front, or line of battle, vanished.

Currently, the primary offensive component of terrorism and insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan manifests itself through the use of the IED. IED attacks target convoys just as frequently as “front line” units. These logistics convoys become combat formations known as Combat Logistics Patrols (CLPs). A prevalent tactic once known as the “presence patrol” from the US experience in Bosnia and Kosovo become Combat Reconnaissance Patrols (CRP). Reconnaissance missions increasingly focused on route clearance. Assessing routes for out-of-place garbage bags, animal carcasses, piles of rocks, and broken concrete curbing indicative of IED camouflage techniques becomes daily routine. Soldiers and Marines developed skilled vehicle-mounted scanning techniques as they looked for the tell-tale lone wire crossing a street linked to an IED initiator. The appearance of new graffiti in a neighborhood becomes an important indicator of potential IED activity. The dominant form of maneuver for US forces operating outside of FOBs become CLPs, CRPs, and route clearance patrols.

Primarily for force protection, US forces implemented a policy of living and operating out of FOBs. Initially viewed as liberators and then occupiers by the Iraqi people, US forces adopted an “unsuccessful counterinsurgency operational practice” by moving into FOBs. As noted in the final draft of a jointly issued Marine Corps and Army manual, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency, separation and isolation from the population involved in an insurgency historically leads to poor rapport and ineffective results. (FM 3-24/FMFM 3-24, 2006) US forces looked more like foreign occupiers than liberators. The shared terrain linking the populace, insurgents, and US forces became the roads and access points to US facilities. By choosing the time and place for employing IEDs against troop movements, insurgents seized the initiative on these common routes. The vast majority of IED attacks occurred within a short distance of the FOBs. Regaining the initiative became the logical next step for US forces. Regaining the initiative optimally comes from precise, preemptive targeting of the human activities that enable IED manufacture. However, identification of an enemy capable of blending into the environment, one that can hide in plain sight, complicated the problem. Doctrine, training, and a lack of counterinsurgency experience set the conditions for a misconception of how to best approach the IED phenomenon.

Doctrinally in maneuver warfare, ground commanders own battle-space called an area of operations (AO). Ground commanders initially viewed IEDs as obstacles on supply routes or as a means of attacking patrols in their AOs. The preferred option for commanders remains obstacle avoidance, but if that is not possible, they pursue obstacle reduction or elimination. Decades of training taught commanders that eliminating obstacles quickly preserves freedom of maneuver and decreases the likelihood of preplanned attack by the enemy. When the option to avoid the obstacle eluded maneuver commanders, they typically used their assigned combat engineers. The comfort level and trust developed through years of doctrinally based training between maneuver forces and combat engineers expedited decisions to clear routes rather than secure and hold suspected IED sites for detailed exploitation and neutralization of IEDs. But a route, once cleared, without constant surveillance and subsequent interdiction becomes easily reseeded with IEDs. The required surveillance and interdiction rarely occurred rendering many route clearance missions ineffective. Rapid removal of the IED threat by ballistic or explosive techniques common to engineers did nothing for forensics or technical exploitation of the device thereby negating options to capture the emplacer or bomb-maker.

Ascertaining those responsible for IEDs becomes a primary concern and the IED threat varied greatly from region to region. Sunni and Shii’a conflict, foreign terrorists, anti-Iraqi forces (AIF), former regime elements (FRE), organized criminal gangs, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, all these groups employed IEDs for their own purposes, with varying degrees of sophistication, and with different tactics. Deciphering this confusing array of threat groups at times presented a complex and haphazard picture of the IED threat for Coalition Forces. Technical analysis from EOD forces coupled with a spirit for law enforcement investigation supportive of Host Nation judiciary and criminal law became vital components to the IED effort. Few maneuver commanders had experience operating with EOD forces to engender the critical cohesion and interoperability essential for success. Due to limited availability of EOD forces in peacetime, maneuver and EOD forces had not trained together and were forced to learn in combat.

EOD forces train for the unique and dangerous mission of rendering safe explosive devices permitting detailed exploitation of devices. Across the Joint Service employment of EOD forces varied. Air Force EOD assets typically operate only on airfields for UXO removal. Navy EOD forces are employed in more of a SOF role with specialization in underwater and littoral operations. Marines EOD forces offer habitual support to Regimental Combat Teams in a direct support mission. Finally, Army EOD forces, traditionally aligned in a combat service support role, typically perform UXO neutralization on training and firing ranges.

Practicing highly specialized EOD skills in peacetime normally restricts maneuver training for EOD forces. In all but rare combined arms training exercises, Army EOD detachments trained unilaterally on demolition or firing ranges with range safety controls constraining the participation of other ground forces. However, the IED use in combat surfaced both a maneuver and doctrinal dilemma for ground forces.

The Counter Explosive Exploitation Cell (CEXC)

In Iraq, the Corps initially maintained central control of EOD detachments limiting any habitual association with ground forces. EOD detachments rotated around the country spending about ten days at a time with maneuver brigades. The EOD battalion headquarters remained in Baghdad under Corps control. The insurgents developed an understanding of US tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) by observing US responses to IEDs. As the IED threat grew, EOD technicians became principal targets for insurgents and terrorists. Casualties and fatalities among EOD forces as well as damage to their robotic interrogation equipment became a threatening concern, particularly with IED first responders. In an attempt to share IED trends and technical information, EOD forces developed a technical exploitation process unique to themselves.

This new technical exploitation capability, an ad hoc organization became known as the Counter Explosive Exploitation Cell (CEXC). The CEXC served as a consolidation point for discovered or neutralized IEDs where detailed technical analysis developed trends, technical information, and unique bomb-maker signatures. A regionally-based IED threat emerged from this analysis. Sophistication of an IED relates directly to the talent of the bomb-maker. The techniques employed varied in part due to insurgent and terrorist access to specific munitions, explosives, detonators, and design expertise. The desire for increased technical and biometric forensics from IEDs raised command interest. The command emphasis shifted and interdicting the chain of activities enabling IED use became a primary concern. The value of the skills brought to the battlefield by EOD forces increased markedly. There were not enough EOD forces in theater for every maneuver brigade, however. Amending EOD force allocation took time but eventually request for forces (RFFs) as well as Army force structure changes creating more EOD capability and other initiatives discussed later in this paper corrected the problem. Simultaneously, evacuation of IED components bearing unique characteristics generated IA and international interest for more detailed exploitation.

Supplemental support became available through agreements with Coalition and IA partners. The involvement of the IA in the CEXC represented the first IA participation in what would become DOD’s Joint IED Defeat strategy. The universally positive recognition of the CEXC eventually required long-term support. Because of the Navy’s role as joint proponent for EOD forces, Joint Service support for the CEXC fell to the US Navy for oversight but the early funds came from the IED Task Force. Manning the CEXC demanded even more from already under-allocated, critically required US EOD forces.

The preceding depiction represents a doctrinal as well as training challenge, a novel organizational initiative, and a force allocation shortfall resulting specifically from the insurgent use of IEDs. The military institution acknowledged this early lesson by making adjustments in theater. However, overcoming the effect of the IED in this regard took valuable time and forces suffered more IED casualties in the interim. Simultaneously, as IED use gradually increased, completion of the first year of the war in Iraq coincided with major troop rotations.

Commanders adapted, learning new lessons while fighting this insurgency, but they needed help. Unit commanders spontaneously identified unexpected capability requirements which compelled development of new approaches and equipment. Acknowledging rising casualties from IED use, the Army, with 70% of the combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, responded early with an ad hoc task force.

The Department of the Army Responds

In October 2003, Lieutenant General Richard Cody, then the G3 of the Army, responded to increasingly dangerous IED attacks against ground forces by creating an Army IED Task Force. LTG Cody chose, COL(P) Joe Votel, USA, Deputy Director for Information Operations in the Army G3 to lead the Task Force. The Task Force initially focused on information sharing and dissemination. Votel primarily deployed contractors, former, elite Special Operation Force (SOF) personnel coupled with a small hand-picked cadre of officers to the battlefield to assess the situation and make creative recommendations on adjustments to tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) employed by operating forces. (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006) The Army, preoccupied with conventional warfare and tactics in its preparation for the war, needed to learn and innovate rapidly. Because of SOF specific training and experience, former SOF personnel proved critical to assessing the problem. (Schoomaker, 2005)

The Army IED Task Force deployed its first field detachment to Iraq in December 2003. In April 2004, an additional team followed to Iraq, and another to Afghanistan. A desire for a permanent organizational solution for asymmetric threats matured with a new concept from the Army called the Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG).

The Army Asymmetric Warfare Group

Several months after the formation of the JIEDDTF, an Army initiative for formation of a new permanent organization for asymmetric warfare surfaced. The AWG is a U.S. Army Special Mission Unit (SMU) with the mission of providing Army and Joint commanders decisive advantages to counter existing and future asymmetric threats. The Army envisioned building this capability from across the Army with the initial planning done by the Army IED Task Force. The concept transitioned the forward deployed operational component along with the training functions of the JIEDDTF to the AWG. The remnant of the JIEDDTF would provide support to the JIPT. However, the OSD decision establishing the JIEDDTF altered the original plan. Subsequent legal issues slowed the formation of the AWG, not the least of which was the need to get Congress to change law allowing its formation. Overcoming these hurdles took time but the AWG continued close support to the Joint IED Defeat effort. (Lovelace and Votel, 2005) In the meantime, the JIEDDTF continued to provide tactical advice to deployed forces through its field teams, and assisted commanders in pre-deployment training through its Training and Advisory Teams (TAT).

In order to provide counter-IED training and advisory support; collect lessons learned, TTPs, and disseminate best practices the personnel on the field teams embedded with units at brigade-level and below. The field teams afford a direct tactical to strategic linkage to all JIEDDTF resources: National assets, priority, and fixes for technical intelligence and forensics exploitation linkage through the national intelligence community. After a 90 to120 day rotation, deployed field team personnel rotate back to CONUS to serve on the TAT. In this way the TAT inform, influence, and support commanders in their pre-employment training. Some of these functions have since been transferred to the AWG. (Allyn, personal communication, October 17, 2006) The JIEDDTF, through the TAT, provided relevant, current lessons learned through advisors possessing recent regional operational experience. The activation of the AWG finally occurred formally in January 2005. The collaboration between the JIEDDTF and the AWG continued, however, DOD recognized the JIEDDTF as the Department’s single point of contact for IED matters. The Pentagon-generated Task Force drew initial skepticism, especially from Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)-7, resulting in several challenges.

Coordination challenges between the various levels of command complicated the effort, such as the lack of a corresponding organization at CENTCOM or in theater. Multiple counter-IED efforts did exist but no clear leader synchronized the effort. Throughout the spring of 2004, the first round of major troop rotations took place changing all the military leadership in country.

Rotation of Forces Heightens the IED Threat

The change-over of leadership and personnel experienced with the rising insurgency met with a corresponding marked increase in overall enemy activity in the spring and summer of 2004. Maintaining operational continuity and priority of effort between changeovers along with problems tracking numerous materiel requirements generated from theater created difficult challenges. As the first units departed the combat theater, knowledge about requirements generated months earlier left with them. Equipment arrived unexpectedly, many times with an ill-defined concept of operation (CONOP) for employment, and came with little to no support. This multi-faceted problem went beyond simply tracking requests for equipment. Training newly arrived units on unfamiliar equipment proved problematic. Stuck fielding new equipment and capabilities while in contact with the enemy, arriving unit commanders grew frustrated. The complexity and tactics of IEDs evolved throughout this period as well.

At first, roadside IEDs constructed with hard-wired initiation systems and rudimentary detonators persisted. The abundant supply of military grade munitions throughout Iraq afforded insurgents and terrorists a virtually unlimited supply of materiel. Suicide car bombings became daily events. The enemy raised the stakes in the counter-IED fight and collateral damage to civilians did not constrain them.

The indiscriminate attacks against Iraqi infrastructure, security forces, and civilians increased, demonstrating the relative impotence of the nascent Iraqi government. The terrorist weapon of choice became the IED. The media relentlessly broadcasted the effects of IED attacks serving the terrorists’ purpose. The early IED challenge brought opportunities to overcome institutional obstacles as well. 

The early IED response by DOD highlighted a lack of conceptual unity among the interagency (IA) and the Services. Over time, new agreements and organizational adaptation enabled consensus for complementary joint approaches and comprehensive rules while working through the IED problem. Conversely, complaints common from combat commanders questioned an apparent lack of national involvement in the war.

The sense of commitment shown by the “Greatest Generation” of World War II (WWII) appeared absent to some commanders. GEN John Abizaid, the commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), built on the WWII theme and called for a “Manhattan-like Project” for the IED threat. Returnees from the war seemed inclined to think like Winston Churchill, speaking to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” A call for a nationwide IED effort commenced when, in June 2004, GEN Abizaid wrote a P4 letter [personal for] to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, asking for his help in mobilizing the nation.

Getting a Manhattan-like Project Started

Because he foresaw the IED threat as a potential threat to success in Iraq, GEN Abizaid wanted a Manhattan-like project, referring to the atomic bomb program in WWII. Debate over whether he achieved his desired effect continues. Whether GEN Abizaid spoke metaphorically or not, the IED problem got the Department’s attention.

The strategic response to the IED required DOD to amend internal biases and institutional rhythms. During July 2004, the Department grappled with organizing itself to assist CENTCOM. The Army felt the IED effort needed an Executive Agent and they volunteered. The Army IED Task Force developed a briefing outlining the Army position. The deliberations by the Service Chiefs and Secretaries during the briefing surfaced cultural differences among the Services. The discussion exposed divergent Service values on the IED response. As an example, Air Force Secretary James G. Roche disagreed with the establishment of a DOD task force under Army leadership. He thought the Air Force could provide a solution to the IED threat and defeat it in about six months. (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006) Apparently, the belief of some senior leaders was that DOD could deal with the IED problem with a somewhat discreet approach, not requiring IA participation. The outcome of the deliberations on the Army proposal produced a Joint Integrated Process Team, or JIPT, for IED Defeat on July 12, 2004.

A one paragraph memorandum issued by Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz authorized the establishment of the JIPT. As a result of the Deputy Secretary’s decision, the Army IED Task Force became a Joint Task Force and formed the nucleus of the DOD effort. The Army led the JIPT assigning its Director of Operations in the G3, MG Fred Robinson, as lead for the JIPT. BG Votel maintained the position as director of the Joint IED Defeat Task Force (JIEDDTF). The combination of these two organizations, the JIPT and JIEDDTF, synchronized the department-wide IED effort.

The primary focus of the JIPT became assessing technology and deliberating on resource decisions for Joint IED Defeat. The JIPT consisted of 13 primary members at the O7/SES level from each of the Services and select Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) offices. The JIEDDTF performed support functions for the JIPT, coordinated operational IED Defeat efforts, and produced IED threat intelligence assessments. The formation of joint task forces (JTFs), like the JIEDDTF, epitomized how Pentagon bureaucracy responds to irregular challenges.

JTFs can buy time for an institutional assessment of the need for longer-term DOD change. However, several bureaucratic deficiencies surfaced from building the JIEDDTF in this fashion. The Services supplied personnel filling the temporary positions in the JIEDDTF with multi-disciplined expertise. One of the benefits of staffing the JIEDDTF this way became the linkage people brought to their parent organizations. Conversely, the ad hoc staff lacked continuity of operations.

Personnel vacancies caused atrophy in parent organizations further retarding bureaucratic efficiency. In the case of active duty personnel, some managers expected personnel to function in both their parent organization as well as the JIEDDTF. The ensuing tug-of-war between management, coupled with split loyalty on the part of the employee, and increased work demands, affected efficiency in both organizations. Due to the Title X role, the four Services took different approaches when they filled the JIEDDTF temporary billets due to Service specific regulations.

In the case of the Air Force, personnel served a 120-day term with the JIEDDTF. The other services typically used a six-month rotation. Service specific personnel processes took months before filling these positions. Reservists called to active duty filled many positions in the JIEDDTF. Disruption in operational continuity resulted from this form of military manning and caused a recurring learning curve for new personnel. It left a void of knowledge in how the JIEDDTF operated and resulted in a lack of sustained experience on the nature of the problem. Over time, tour extensions for a core group of selected personnel provided limited continuity and an ability to operate at the highest levels of the institution.

Developing Shared Approaches for Joint IED Defeat

The JIEDDTF routinely answered questions from Congress and other US government agencies on the IED threat and provided assessments and updates on counter-measures. The resulting media coverage shed public light on the JIEDDTF. As the single point of contact for the DOD, many coalition partners viewed the JIEDDTF as a valuable point of contact with the US government. International partners regularly contacted the JIEDDTF for assistance in an effort to coordinate actions on counter-IED. Well over two dozen countries engaged the JIEDDTF in meaningful dialogue on the IED threat. Most of these exchanges came with requests for training, intelligence sharing, or equipment solutions. Many nations explored the possibility of shared R&D of technologies to defeat or counter the IED. The Department of State and several federal law enforcement agencies seemingly possessed a vested interest in international requests for IED response coordination. Viewed by a growing international constituency as a valued point of contact for the United States government, DOD should have acquired a broad mandate for coordinating international agreements. The coordination with coalition members reminds one of Churchill’s comments, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies – and that is fighting without them.” (Skelton, 2004, p. 102)

The JIEDDTF entered into bi-lateral agreements with several coalition partners. Ultimately, the closest US partners embedded officers on the JIEDDTF as organic members of the task force. In this way, the JIEDDTF provided mutual national benefit in the realm of intelligence sharing, technology and training. The United Kingdom followed by Australia and Canada provided the early international members to the task force, enabling near transparent collaboration of national efforts. The international influence of embedded officers contributed to the development of a more refined Joint IED Defeat strategy.

The Joint IED Defeat Approach

The JIEDDTF developed a holistic approach for IED Defeat, organizing sub-IPTs around the five tenets of assured mobility espoused by the Army Engineer School: predict, prevent, detect, neutralize, and mitigate. These tenets formed the paradigm of a multi-faceted approach which also encompassed: threat specific intelligence, integrated technology, focused training, TTPs, doctrine development, and information sharing. The US Army, through its Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), worked closely with the JIEDDTF developing a new doctrinal manual for IED Defeat, FMI 3-34.114. The Engineer School led a team from the Army schools along with the TRADOC Futures Center. The doctrine writers from TRADOC completed the new interim field manual in an unprecedented six months. Even with this significant doctrinal effort from the institutional schools, the main effort shifted noticeably toward technology in the hope of a quick answer to the IED problem.

A belief at the highest levels in the Department, echoed by commanders within CENTCOM, pressed for a technological solution to the IED threat. The predisposition for a technological solution hindered DOD’s early strategy toward a more comprehensive IA approach centered on intelligence driven operations. The JIEDDTF posture was not risk averse. The initial direction received from GEN Abizaid in August 2004: identified the most promising solutions, even if they had only a “51% chance” of being effective, and test them forward in theater. To be fair, the early effort became a quest for immediate solutions which could save lives. Combat developers from across the Services got the message. GEN Abizaid wanted the bleeding stopped quickly.

GEN Abizaid aggressively sought to test potential solutions in the combat theater but by doing so, he inadvertently surfaced some friction and bias which at times complicated the effort. (Votel, personal communication, September 27, 2006) Stated simply, most deployed commanders were not enamored with the concept of testing unknown capabilities while engaged in a daily life and death struggle with the enemy. Identifying the right level of command for coordinating IED issues concerned GEN Abizaid but he did not slow the effort while waiting for a perfect solution. Concurrently, the Services pursued various initiatives as IED casualties increased.

The early Service efforts concentrated on techniques and materiel solutions for mitigation of blast effects from IEDs. Budget obligations of literally billions of dollars, primarily from the Army, fielded up-armored High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), paid for developments of add-on armor solutions for lightly armored vehicles, and adequate personal body armor for Soldiers and Marines. Avoiding duplication of Service efforts remained a critical policy for the JIEDDTF. The JIEDDTF looked for promising solutions that required additional funding to reach higher readiness levels for field tests and operational assessment. (Boston Globe, 2006)

In August 2004, Secretary Wolfowitz directed a National Laboratory Challenge, an effort soliciting new ideas and more promising technology. Secretary Wolfowitz called for the development of innovative solutions from the best minds in the nation. He emphasized rapid fielding of solutions to the IED problem, but he did not ignore longer term science and technology (S&T) and R&D efforts. Over 300 attendees from all the Nation’s laboratories and leading defense firms embarked on multiple paths to find solutions to this threat. Representatives from several IA technical offices participated. These representatives showed interest in DOD’s call for assistance but no coordination resulted from the IA at the conference. Two months later a similar conference held for industry garnered 500 attendees.

The Joint Baseline Assessment

Simultaneous to this outreach to the labs and industry, the JIEDDTF scoured the DOD-wide inventory of programs for technologies that might apply to the IED Defeat effort. This effort did not represent completely unplowed ground however. After the attacks on September 11, 2001 the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (OSD-ATL) formed its own task force, the Combating Terrorism Technology Task Force (CTTTF). Led by Mr. Ben Riley, the CTTTF looked into technology approaches to disrupt and defeat terrorism. Much of the early work in IED Defeat resulted because of the partnership with the CTTTF. COL Lamont Woody, USA, of the JIEDDTF led a review team that assessed nearly 300 programs. Known as the joint baseline assessment, this review and assessment effort categorized and prioritized initiatives. The team led by Woody split the initiatives among the five tenets for further evaluation by the sub-IPTs. The effort consumed a large portion of the JIEDDTF and succeeded in identifying the ideas and equipment most ready for field deployment.

The initiatives deemed the most ready, termed the “low-hanging fruit”, received priority. Quickly assessing these initiatives gained immediate importance in the JIPT process. As an example, the first solutions approved involve detection and neutralization efforts. A well trained dog proved the best solution for quick explosive detection, and one that could rapidly deploy to theater. The first effort led to the fielding of 12 additional dog teams to Iraq. Robotics for explosive exploitation and neutralization surfaced as another promising capability. High demand EOD units identified the requirement for additional robots for unmanned stand-off for device interrogation. The JIPT provided funding for additional robots in sufficient quantity to double the number deployed with EOD forces as well as expanding availability of depot replacements in theater. However, the purpose of this study is not to focus on the merits of individual solutions approved by the JIPT, but to review the emerging processes.

Rapid Approval Process

What developed in the JIPT approval process for IED Defeat solutions indicated an atypical culture shift from the Pentagon norm. The JIEDDTF broke established procedure. The default setting for any bureaucracy sustains processes developed to normalize the organization. The JIEDDTF, charged to innovate and move fast, operated on the fringes of the existing bureaucratic system. Since the JIEDDTF operated at the direction of the Deputy Secretary it attracted great attention and scrutiny. This kind of entrepreneurial discretion proved critical to rapid decisions.

The initial process gave the JIPT authority to approve single initiatives up to a threshold of $10 million with the Deputy Secretary reserving approval for solutions exceeding $10 million [later adjusted to $25 million, See Figure 1]. To advise him, the Deputy established a Senior Resource Steering Group (SRSG) which closely paralleled the Joint Readiness Oversight Council (JROC) structure, however the SRSG exclusively approved Joint IED Defeat proposals. In most cases, there were no contentious issues, so initiatives received approval electronically without physically forming the SRSG. Even this high level approval process met with inadvertent institutional friction.

The new process for rapid funding of IED Defeat initiatives met with some reluctance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense-Comptroller (OSD-C). (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006) The capabilities and materiel solutions for the IED effort did not fit neatly within standard Planning, Programming, Budget, and Execution (PPBE) cycles. Because Congressional supplemental funding known as the Iraq Freedom Fund (IFF) paid for the war effort, the OSD-C prepared all DOD submissions for Congressional review for this supplemental funding (See Figure 1). The JIEDDTF operated without an organizational budget, relying on the Army for operating funds while the IFF provided money for the IED Defeat effort. The JIPT decisions passed through the Services for their concurrence and the OSD-Comptroller for action en route to Congress.

Figure 1, Joint IED Defeat Resource Process (JIEDDTF 101 Brief)
Even with the Deputy Secretary’s emphasis, the approval process proved painful, extremely deliberate, lacking the sense of urgency intended, although faster than the typical DOD approval process. The JIEDDTF advertised a process that could take as few as 13 days for funding approval from Congress. Occasionally it actually met the 13 day target, but in reality a 30-day norm typified the processing time required for distributing funds to the Service designated as lead for a specific IED Defeat solution. The manner in which ideas and requirements came to the JIEDDTF complicated the JIPT process. 

The four military Services filled requirements for fighting forces based on requests from field commanders.  Commander requests come in the form of Operational Needs Statements (ONS) for the Army, Critical Mission Needs Statements (CMNS) for the Air Force, and Urgent Universal Needs for the Marine Corps and Navy.  For some reason agreement for one “requirement” term proved too elusive for the Services.  The requirement process did not lend itself well to the Combatant Command (COCOM) commander’s priorities. Instead, requirements moved through the disparate Service approval and programming processes based on Title X funding requirements.

Attempting to overcome this war-fighting deficiency, in mid-2005 the Joint Staff instituted another process called the Joint Universal Operational Need Statement, or JUONS as depicted in Figure 2. CENTCOM insisted that all IED Defeat requirements come to them as JUONS for validation and prioritization by the COCOM prior to the individual Services.

The Army process illustrates the initial validation sequence. Validation of requirements occurs at various levels of field command until they get to the Pentagon. The Department of the Army (DA) staff, typically from the Deputy Chief of Staff, G3, reviewed and revalidated all requirements.  DA validated requirements pass to the programmers in the G8, and they assessed the need for reprogramming to pay for a requirement.  So, even though a field commander may have a valid war-fighting requirement, there’s a chance funds are not available.  When the Army, or any Service, rejected a request, it would come to the JIPT for consideration.  There was a general verbal understanding that the JIPT would only consider requirements with joint counter-IED applicability, meaning no single service initiatives.

Figure 2, Requirements Approval Process

All the Services had a stake in this process since the IFF paid for the war effort. Congress sent the action to the Office of Management and Budget and then it made its way back to OSD. Since the Deputy Secretary gave priority to Joint IED Defeat initiatives, he allocated the funds before Service requests received their “cut” by OSD. When these appropriated funds got to the JIEDDTF, it generally worked through the Army Budget Office facilitating fund distribution to pre-designated Services for subsequent fund obligation.

Over time BG Votel recognized the JIEDDTF had become a cash cow with the secondary effect of stifling Service initiative to fund their solutions. (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006) The JIEDDTF issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) through the program management of the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) soliciting industry solutions for 17 identified capability gaps. Industry responded with 851 submissions. The Joint Rapid Acquisition Council (JRAC) provided needed assistance in prioritizing resource decisions from across the Department. Led by Dr. Bob Buhrkuhl from OSD ATL, the JRAC took special interest in the Joint IED Defeat effort and assisted with the funding process. The JIEDDTF sub-IPTs vetted these 851 submissions down to some 30 initiatives for follow-on development and funding through the JIPT. Over the course of the first year, $1.2 billion worth of obligations paid for over 70 initiatives. In the second year, budget obligations eclipsed $3.5 billion. With money comes the expectation that equipment could rapidly materialize in theater. The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force assisted the JIEDDTF to quickly field needed capabilities and equipment.

The Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF)

During the first year, at the direction of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, now GEN Richard Cody, the REF provided direct support (DS) to the JIEDDTF. The REF’s novel acquisition and contracting capability greatly enhanced JIEDDTF operations. The JIEDDTF was more than simply a supply warehouse filling requests from the field, though that was a priority in the first year.  It also found innovative ways to address capability gaps and then deploy the capability to theater.  In layman’s terms, these capabilities were needed to offset perceived or real mismatches against the threat.  At times, commanders need capability that may not exist.  The REF searched commercial off the shelf (COTS) and government off the shelf (GOTS) inventories for equipment that provided immediate impact for units in combat. This effort involved S&T, R&D, and adjustment to the conduct of operations.  Integrating new solutions into existing platforms many times fell to the JIEDDTF Technology Integration Team collocated with the REF.  While much of the equipment the REF purchased offered enhancements over existing equipment, some unique capabilities also materialized. An illustration of the working relationship between the JIEDDTF and the REF clarifies the process of fielding capabilities in theater. One such example, the Dazzler, procured by the REF in a COTS purchase provided an unusual and much sought capability.

Suicide car bombers using vehicle borne IEDs (VBIED) routinely patrolled commonly used routes for passing US formations. The terrorist employed a tactic targeting US formations by driving into the vehicle column and then detonated the VBIED. The initial counter-action by US forces became firing warning shots in front of suspect vehicles. The technique of firing warning shots at vehicles eventually became a command issue in Iraq, and subsequent policy prohibited the practice. The hand-held Dazzler offered a non-lethal means of mitigating the VBIED threat by essentially crystallizing the windshield turning it white, rendering no visibility for the vehicle operator. Typically, the driver was so stunned they veered off course thwarting the attack. In most cases the Servicemen that employed new systems, like the Dazzler, hadn’t trained with the equipment so they refined CONOPs for employing newly fielded equipment in combat. 

Lack of training complicated the JIEDDTF’s and the REF’s task. The IED effort generated public interest and scrutiny from industry. Congressional constituents, particularly from industry, were not shy about letting their Congressman know that, if given a little money for development, they had “the solution” to the IED problem. The national lab and industry challenges directed by Secretary Wolfowitz generated even more Congressional interest and inquiries. A change of leadership occurred during this surge of public interest in the IED effort with Secretary Wolfowitz’s departure from DOD.

The Joint IED Defeat Directive

Gordon England replaced Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz in June 2005. Mr. England closely followed the IED effort while in his previous position as the Secretary of the Navy. Prior to assuming his position in OSD, he directed the Office of Naval Research to initiate an R&D effort for IED Defeat. With Secretary England’s arrival came a renewed commitment to the JIEDDTF.

The JIEDDTF presented an overview briefing to Secretary England and he immediately asked how he could help. In the demanding first year, the JIEDDTF and JIPT experienced instances where established institutional processes inhibited operational need. JIEDDTF members felt the one paragraph memorandum establishing the JIPT and the JIEDDTF left too much to the imagination. The single paragraph did not provide the clarity of scope and responsibility the Pentagon bureaucracy needed.

The Joint IED Defeat effort required an authoritative directive for developing conceptual unity across the Services and within OSD. Previously, the JIEDDTF developed a charter for the JIPT and approached Secretary England with the idea of authorizing a DOD directive for Joint IED Defeat. The JIPT charter became the blueprint for the development of DOD Directive 2000.19. The OSD staff toiled with a select group from the JIEDDTF for four days before the wording met Secretary England’s intent. In the accompanying cover letter to the directive, Secretary England stated, “We will not have a business-as-usual approach … defeating IEDs is one of the highest priorities for the Department of Defense.” (DODD 2000.19, June 2005)

Senior Leaders Underwrite Risk

Senior DOD leadership underwrote risk during the development of the Joint IED effort. Numerous business processes ranging from acquisition, budgeting, R&D, testing, and training underwent modification enabling the Joint IED Defeat process. Of course, some of the processes developed by the JIEDDTF made people uncomfortable. The bureaucracy typical of Pentagon actions recoiled. Much like Secretary Rumsfeld decried early in his tenure with his “Anchor Chain” memos, the Department’s biggest impediment seemed to be its own bureaucracy. (Rumsfeld, May 1, 2001, “a six-page SECRET memo entitled, Illustrative New 21st Century Institutions and Approaches.”) Secretary England’s personal involvement underscores one of the vital elements of JIEDDTF success. In one early memo from Secretary England authorizing the funding of a sensitive IED initiative he wrote across the top, “No staffing – No hierarchy [italics added].” BG Votel believed the Deputy Secretary wanted to reinforce with the Services and OSD staff the personal emphasis he placed on IED specific actions and he didn’t appreciate Service hierarchy slowing the approval process.

Senior leader involvement and risk tolerance proved an important ingredient to enabling organizational innovation and the capacity to work around standard process and procedures. The notion that, “Only organizational self-awareness can change organizational culture,” prompted the type of response DOD leaders enacted responding to the IED threat. (Nagl, 2002, p. 221) Faced with Pentagon bureaucratic friction and cumbersome DOD policy, Secretary England demanded improved processing speed for IED actions instilling a sense of urgency normally found on the battlefield. The directive fostered institutional continuity for Joint IED Defeat.

DOD Directive 2000.19 provided authorization for several important improvements to JIPT and JIEDDTF operational procedures. First, the JIEDDTF Director now reported directly to Secretary England. Previously, all actions went through the Army, Vice Chief of Staff, GEN Cody. The Director’s role as single point of contact for DOD allowed growth of an intimate relationship for Joint IED Defeat at the highest levels in the Department. The Director’s recurring updates to the Deputy Secretary also forged a strong tie with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Vice Chairman added Joint IED Defeat to his personal portfolio of interest. Acknowledging the stature of the Director at this level allowed development of a peer relationship with the Service Chiefs. Secondly, the approval authority for initiatives moved to the JIEDDTF Director, vice the JIPT, improving independence and decision speed. The JIPT now served as an advisory board to the Director and a forum for the Services and principal OSD offices to voice their opinions. The approval threshold for the JIEDDTF IED Defeat initiatives increased to $25 million vice the previous $10 million. Finally, and most significantly to the JIEDDTF, it instructed the Services to fully staff the JIEDDTF with the “best and brightest” personnel. A Joint Manning Document (JMD) provided authorization of the permanent positions. For administrative purposes the Army continued as Executive Agent, but in a somewhat unprecedented decision, the JIEDDTF became an OSD, Joint Task Force under the Deputy Secretary. (DODD 2000.19, June 2005) The DOD directive itself galvanized the effort. The institution readily accepted the authority inherent in a directive signed by the Deputy Secretary lending credence to the position of the JIEDDTF director as well as the entire Joint IED Defeat effort.

OSD institutionalized Joint IED Defeat with the new directive but it did so without following established procedure. Correcting this shortfall became the job of the Joint Staff, J8. The J8 coordinated with the JIEDDTF on an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for Joint IED Defeat for over a year. Choosing the term Joint IED Defeat vice counter-IED for describing the DOD effort signaled a need for an offensive component to the strategy.

Time to Modify the Strategic Approach

The term “counter” connotes a defensive, reactionary mode of operation. The term did not convey the holistic strategy required to defeat the terrorist use of IEDs. The initial IED approach designed by the JIEDDTF used the five tenets of assured mobility for the purpose of organizing the initial baseline assessment of IED Defeat solutions. The sub-IPTs categorized, assessed, and refined initiatives by using the five tenets. But by now the JIPT had harvested all readily available technological solutions, the low-hanging fruit. Taking a device-centric approach to neutralize or mitigate the effects of the IED does not stem the use of the IED. Improving intelligence and preemptive targeting of the human chain-of-activities enabling the use of IEDs took greater importance.

Many acknowledged the need for an offensive, human-centric component but no mention of greater involvement with the intelligence community (IC) or IA surfaced at this time. Although seemingly intuitive that technology alone could not deliver a “silver bullet” solution, the JIPT efforts delivered predominately technological solutions. Another lesson emerged with the recognition that technology alone may not offer a panacea, a more comprehensive approach developed. Evolving the Joint IED Defeat strategy became a priority ultimately codified in the updated directive as well as a new CENTCOM Counter-IED Campaign Plan.

Figure 3, The Strategic Approach (JIEDDTF 101 Brief)

Some members of the JIEDDTF worked with CENTCOM on a Counter-IED Campaign Plan. CENTCOM choose three lines of operations to describe the effort. The JIEDDTF adopted a modified version of these lines of operation. The JIEDDTF restructured its strategic approach along three lines of operation: Defeat the IED System, [later rephrased as Attack the Network to emphasize an offensive component] (Allyn, personal communication, October 17, 2006) Defeat the Device, and Train the Force. A Joint Common Operational Picture (JCOP) and Joint Common Intelligence Picture (JCIP) informed all three of these lines of operation. [See Figure 3] The new approach recognized an integrated application of synchronized techniques delivered comprehensive success. As the JIEDDTF adopted this strategy, it began treading on the turf of many organizations involved in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Other organizations and task forces for terrorism and insurgency existed prior to the JIEDDTF. The OSD-ATL task force, the CTTTF, mentioned earlier took a technology-centric approach to counterterrorism. The collaboration between the CTTTF and JIEDDTF mitigated any duplication of effort and the close partnership overseen at OSD level alleviated any issues with authority. However, other efforts were not as closely associated with the JIEDDTF.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) similarly delved into terrorism. The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) responded to the Army as a center of excellence for irregular warfare. The previously mentioned Army AWG treaded on very similar ground but in close collaboration with the JIEDDTF. The intelligence community (IC) also actively pursued initiatives closely aligned with some aspects of the Joint IED Defeat effort but not collaboratively with DOD. This partially listing offers a brief perspective of the perception that developed as the JIEDDTF expanded its three lines of operation to defeat the IED enabling activities offensively.

Adopting these three lines of operation necessitated a predictive and offensive approach in order to Defeat the IED System. The JIEDDTF recognized that being reactive gave the advantage to the enemy. BG Votel initiated development of a preemptive, human-centric component to his strategic approach.

The desire for preemption required red teaming. The design of a red teaming capability for the IED Defeat effort assembled cultural experts, scientists, seasoned operators, intelligence professionals, and explosives experts designed to provide insights into enemy innovation and reaction to coalition IED Defeat initiatives. In order to get ahead of the enemy, the JIEDDTF had to develop the next generation of capability before the enemy demonstrated his counter-measure to current capability.

Strategic to Tactical Unity of Effort

In May 2005, CENTCOM created a Counter-IED Task Force from a portion of its staff. Previously, GEN Abizaid employed the JIEDDTF as one of his own JTFs. The JIEDDTF delivered regular updates to the CENTCOM commander but had no corresponding organization for staff coordination within CENTCOM. GEN Abizaid’s sponsorship with the national, strategic-level organization was vital to the early success of the JIEDDTF. Managing the tactical to strategic effort was difficult from the Pentagon, and this counterpart organization improved coordination with CENTCOM and units in theater. As the CENTCOM Counter-IED Task Force formed they pursued contacts with the IA representatives in the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) resident at CENTCOM. Action officers at CENTCOM attempted facilitation of greater IA support by arranging a meeting between a high-level ATF director and BG Votel in Washington D.C. but at the last minute, the ATF pulled out of the meeting. Due to resource constraints, the ATF could not support greater involvement with DOD’s IED effort.

Completion of both the Joint IED Defeat ICD and the CENTCOM Counter-IED Campaign Plan occurred well into the DOD effort. Much like the challenges the Coalition experienced with preparing to win and then sustain the peace in Iraq, the asymmetry presented by the IED was not considered before the war. Clearly, the effort took more time and resources than envisioned by the Service Chiefs and Secretaries the previous summer. With a broader strategic approach for the IED effort underway, this became an opportune time for soliciting greater IA participation but the AO-level attempt back-fired. Preparations for a longer, more comprehensive DOD commitment to the IED effort commenced just as the name of the “the ideological struggle of the 21st Century,” changed from the Global War on Terror to the Long War. (Bush, 8/31/06) Renaming the GWOT as the Long War, recognized terrorism as a tactic used in war, not war itself. The Long War, or “ideological war”, implies a global insurgency as suggested by LTG David Barno in an article quoted earlier in this paper. (Barno, 2006) Waging a global counterinsurgency implies greater synchronization of all elements of national power, inclusive of the IA, necessitating a long-term, unifying strategy for Joint IED Defeat.

Preparing for the Long War

Up until this time, BG Votel operated with a small staff. Innovating rapid solutions and adjusting TTPs prioritized the JIEDDTF effort. He felt he could not grow the organization rapidly enough to deal with the demands that evolving challenges dictated. In hindsight, the JIEDDTF looked at too many things, according to BG Votel, and a reduced scope of following a technology road map would have been preferable. (Votel, personal communication, October 7, 2006) But by this time, senior leaders in the Department acknowledged the IED menace would become part of the Long War.

Instilling a sense of urgency into an S&T culture accustomed to operating on much longer time constants challenged the JIEDDTF. (Keesee, personnel communication, November 17, 2006) The Office of Naval Research (ONR) began a R&D effort for IED Defeat following instructions from Secretary England. Coordinating the Join Laboratory Board (JLB) effort also concerned the JIEDDTF. Dr. Starnes Walker of ONR collaborated with the JIEDDTF during the establishment of the JLB. JIEDDTF gave the JLB primary focus of prioritizing, funding, and planning a long-term S&T effort for promising emergent technological approaches discovered by academics and laboratories. The time horizon for this effort was five to ten years. Walker, the chief scientist for ONR, felt the Joint IED Defeat focus should be the entire human chain-of-activities, or “kill chain.” (Boston Globe, June 25, 2006) The many disparate DOD programs, laboratory efforts, and industry initiatives needed an expedited process for test and evaluation.

Synchronizing the Test Effort

Each of the Services approached testing in their own way, and JIEDDO needed systems developed where everyone worked together. The JIEDDTF needed a test coordinator. BG Votel called on the assistance of the Army once again. MG Jim Myles the commander of the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) led a new Joint Test Board for IED Defeat. A fairly loose confederation of the various test entities across the Department, one of the tasks for this board was scheduling and prioritizing IED Defeat initiatives for testing primarily at the Yuma Proving Ground facility.

The Joint Test Board proved an extremely important effort, especially during the testing, and fielding of electronic countermeasures (ECM) coined (CREW) in IED Defeat terminology for, Counter-IED Radio Controlled Electronic Warfare. Enemy employment of radio controlled initiation systems increased markedly especially in Iraq. At times as many as 70% of the IEDs consisted of RC initiators in specific regions of Iraq. The enemy need for increased stand-off distance, coupled with the commercial availability of RC components explained this surge. CREW emerged as more than a billion dollar business by itself.

The fielding of CREW marked a paradigm shift for conventional ground forces. Formerly only personal security detachments for high value individuals, Special Operating Forces (SOF), and EOD response teams operated with ground-based ECM. Of course, the Air Force and the Navy employed ECM for years, principally in airborne and maritime operations.

Now, in an effort to prevent IED detonations, hundreds of ground combat units were equipped with highly sensitive CREW systems. Literally thousands of CREW systems were fielded, programmed, and then upgraded or reprogrammed during combat operations due to the transitory nature of the IED threat. Accomplishing CREW fielding without an established management structure and with very minimal pre-deployment training proved another challenge. The US Navy stepped forward offering experienced electronic warfare personnel which offered time for maturing the Army’s capability with CREW. Those closest to the CREW effort claimed CREW fielding proved the largest technological challenge for DOD in the war, on a scale last experienced in WWII.

In the minds of commanders and units preparing for deployment, the technology and fielding challenge associated with CREW paled in importance to an even bigger concern for them, ensuring tactical lessons and new TTPs were validated and provided to the Services for pre-deployment training. Were these observations, lessons learned, and best practices finding their way into doctrinal manuals, training standards, and commanders’ pre-deployment training plans early enough to make a difference in saving the lives of Soldiers and Marines? The answer surfaced through collaboration between the JIEDDTF and Joint Forces Command (JFCOM).

Improving the Joint Training-base

The JIEDDTF needed a way to standardize emerging TTPs across the joint force. Coaching units with tactical advice and providing training suggestions appeared the best thing the early Army IED TF did for tactical units. The understaffed joint task force regularly sought assistance from others.  BG Votel thought soliciting support from JFCOM could benefit the IED training effort. 

The first foray to Norfolk, Virginia, happened in December 2004. The JIEDDTF spoke about its approach and requirements to about 70 individuals, including three flag officers led by the J3.  It took several months before JFCOM fully engaged in the effort but when they did there was an immediate impact.  In August 2005, a large contingent from JFCOM led by BG Tony Cucolo the Director of the Joint Center for Operational Analysis (JCOA), attended a CENTCOM C-IED Conference and volunteered JFCOM for some critical actions.

The JFCOM staff formed an IED Cell of their own under BG Don Broome, the J5, and BG Cucolo’s staff at JCOA developed a framework for an operational analysis effort on Joint IED Defeat.  Up until the work of JFCOM, no joint doctrine, no joint training regulations, really nothing of a formal, doctrinal nature on Joint IED Defeat existed.  JFCOM rectified this shortfall and assisted in capturing joint tactical lessons learned, something outside of their charter but something desperately needed.  The JIEDDTF provided funding for a JFCOM prototype effort known as, Knowledge and Information Fusion Exchange (KnIFE).  The concept included building a responsive staff of analysts and doctrine writers for inquiries on IED related questions. This staff drafted joint lessons learned and posted them on a new website allowing 24/7 access and collaboration. JFCOM’s collaboration also prompted the Chairman’s, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) interest in the training needs of the Services for Joint IED Defeat.

During late summer of 2005, GEN Richard Myers, the CJCS, instructed LTG Ray Odierno, Assistant to the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a joint training needs assessment for the IED threat. Over the course of several weeks, he received briefings, traveled to training sites, and talked to commanders, Soldiers and Marines. Following LTG Odierno’s assessment a joint working group developed a proposal for a Joint Center of Excellence (JCOE) for Joint IED Defeat. LTG Odierno championed the need for the JCOE before the Service Chiefs at a JCS Tank briefing outlining its critical roles, functions, and essential manning requirements. (Allyn, personal communication, October 17, 2006) The goal of the JCOE became training preparation of joint forces for fighting with well developed TTPs, excellent, current situational awareness, and the right equipment solutions. Selection of a facility location proved a key Service issue deliberated at the JCS Tank briefing.

The final choice of a training location was the Army National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, now concurrently designated as the Joint Center of Excellence for IED Defeat. The Army already modified its training regimen at the NTC and the Joint Readiness Training Center for units bound for Iraq (OIF) or Afghanistan (OEF). Pre-deployment exercises, called MREs, or Mission Rehearsal Exercises, for OIF and OEF required currency for training to the threats in these two theaters. The Commanding General of the NTC serves concurrently as the Director of the JCOE for the JIEDDTF and receives additional staff and funding support for this new effort. He oversees the efforts of all four Services at locations determined by the Services.

The Marines use 29 Palms Marine Base, the Air Force Lackland Air Force Base, and the Navy its Indianhead facility in Maryland. Each Service was assigned functional specialties based on Service core competencies to develop concepts of operation (CONOPs) and TTPs. The JCOE would lead efforts to integrate CONOPs and TTPs for full spectrum operations in collective, combined arms scenarios. Once trainers validated new CONOPs, leaders required training to recognize threat warning signs and modify their training approaches to this new environment. (Meigs, 2003)

Approval of the JCOE concept occurred in November 2005 and simultaneously the Service Chiefs recommended elevating the Director of the JIEDDTF to a three or four-star flag officer. The deliberations at the JCS Tank briefing acknowledged complete Joint Service acceptance for Joint IED Defeat. Service posturing experienced the previous summer over budget impacts from the IED effort become immaterial. Service values for Joint IED Defeat coalesced with this decision. The senior leaders of the military, the Joint Chiefs, submitted a consensus recommendation to Secretary Rumsfeld for final approval.

Approval of a Permanent JIEDDTF

In November 2005, Secretary Rumsfeld approved the upgrade of the director position and gave the Services two weeks to recommend a new flag officer as the JIEDDTF director. Rumsfeld and the Service Chiefs wanted a “more senior commander’s operational perspective” for the Joint IED Defeat effort. Secretary Rumsfeld expected the effort, “to encompass the manner in which our forces operate, their tactics, and their procedures.” (DOD News Release, December 5, 2005) Additionally, Rumsfeld instructed OSD and the Joint Staff to assess the need for a permanent organization.

In essence, the JIEDDTF bought time for an institutional determination if a permanent capability for the IED threat proved necessary. (Keesee, personal communication, 17 November 2006) With permanent recognition of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, DOD Directive 2000.19 required updating. Significant organizational and procedural lessons emerged during the update of the directive. Consensus by the senior military leaders in each Service and the Chairman allowed organizational innovation because they all viewed it in the best interest of their Services and the long-term interests of the institution. (Nagl, 2002) By creating a permanent organization, DOD shifted primacy for synchronizing and funding the IED effort to the Director. Secretary Rumsfeld agreed with the Service Chiefs expanding the IED joint training effort with the JCOE. He also approved a more senior leader, one with a broader operational perspective on a par with the Service Chiefs for the JIEDDO Director.

On 12 December 2005, General Montgomery C. Meigs (USA, Ret.), assumed his new role as the Director for the JIEDDTF. GEN Meigs is the former Commander of US Army Europe and 7th Army, and the Louis A. Bantle Professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. GEN Meigs drew regularly on his experience as commander of the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, a constant reference point for him. By mid-January 2006, the Joint Staff and OSD recommendation for a permanent organization received approval from Secretary Rumsfeld, completing the history of the JIEDDTF as depicted in Figure 4.

GEN Meigs brought with him two individuals that served previously with him while on active duty. They proved critical to implementing Meigs’ concepts for his new organization. Mr. Maxie McFarland, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence at the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) served as special advisor to GEN Meigs, his immediate task, increasing the intelligence capability of the JIEDDO. Mr. Steve Kirin, MITRE Corporation, reviewed and refined the operational assessment approach for the organization. Concurrent with the update to the directive, GEN Meigs conducted a mission analysis from December 2005 to about March 2006.

Figure 4, JIEDDTF transition to JIEDDO Timeline

JIEDDO Mission Statement

Focus (lead, advocate, coordinate) all Department of Defense actions in support of Combatant Commanders' and their respective Joint Task Forces' efforts to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices as weapons of strategic influence.

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