After a dozen years of war and months before the US drawdown in Afghanistan, the Pentagon is debating the fate of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
It was created in 2005 at the height of the Iraq war to defeat roadside bombs that was the leading killer of US and allied troops. The IED remains leading threat to allied forces in Afghanistan.
Dedicated to the mission, JIEDDO studied the threat, developed and fielded systems to address it, built an intelligence system to troops keep abreast of fast changing enemy advances, and trained forces how best to protect themselves.
Now, DoD will either retain JIEDDO on a smaller scale or subsume its responsibilities into the military services.
Giving control of the mission to the services would be a mistake as too many, especially in the Army, appear eager to turn away from costly counterinsurgency warfare, preferring to revert to preparing for more conventional conflict.
While those skills are important, the IED will remain an enduring threat that requires an enduring infrastructure to retain lessons learned and ensure future readiness.
That’s why DoD must keep JIEDDO independent and focused on a threat every potential adversary understands; IEDs are an ideal asymmetric tool against against sophisticated, casualty averse forces.
Inexpensive to build and easy to use, they are deadly, yield staggering numbers of wounded -- physical, mental and emotional -- and require a multiplicity of costly systems to defeat.
And it has unfortunately has spread worldwide. It has killed American special operators in the Philippines and is increasingly used by narco-traffickers to protect coca fields from eradication.
America and its allies were unprepared for IEDs a dozen years ago, and despite billions of investment, they remain an evolving threat that requires continued vigilance.