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GAO: EOD Training Has Eroded

May. 8, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
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Constant deployment of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel on counter-IED missions is eroding training, according to a new GAO report.

“Meeting the demands for EOD forces in combat operations has negatively affected EOD units’ personnel and ability to train for other missions,” said the April 25 report, titled “Explosive Ordnance Disposal: DOD Needs Better Resource Planning and Joint Guidance to Manage the Capability.”

This has left other EOD missions unfulfilled, the GAO said.

“For example, according to service officials, the services assumed some risks in some mission areas such as countering sea mines, clearing unexploded ordnance on training ranges, and providing defense support to civil authorities,” the report said.

As combat demands in Afghanistan ebb, training is refocusing on core skills that have languished, such as diving by Navy EOD teams. EOD units will also be available again for humanitarian demining, irregular warfare, civil support for handling unexploded ordnance discovered in American communities, and working with foreign militaries.

There will be continued heavy demand for EOD assets to cope with IEDs, but there will also be new missions generated by the Air-Sea Battle concept, such as clearing explosive obstacles from sea lanes and airfields.

In an appendix to the year-long study that was released at the end of April, the GAO noted that discussions with EOD personnel revealed that they were satisfied with the quality of their training on the whole, though they wanted more of it. However, there were some specific concerns.

“Some group discussion participants reported concerns about not being able to train with the same types of equipment, such as robots, as they would be using when deployed. Both Army and Marine Corps personnel expressed the desire for more training in homemade explosives and casualty care. Additionally, Army and Navy personnel reported that they needed additional access to training ranges.”

The size of the U.S. military’s EOD force ballooned 72 percent between 2002 and 2012, from 3,600 to 6,200, according to the GAO. Because of the long training needed, the services would like to maintain the expanded size, but a lack of clear data regarding current spending on EOD makes that harder to justify, the GAO said.

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