If you’re looking for a database that collects and tracks all of the Pentagon’s counter-IED programs, don’t look to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to provide it. While the Pentagon’s four year-old attempt to get “left of the boom” on the roadside bombs that have plagued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is tracking its own programs, it is not following those the other services are funding and fielding, leading to a duplication of efforts and a failure to centralize information.
That’s the conclusion a harsh new Government Accountability Office report came to when it looked into JIEDDO’s operations. The report says that JIEDDO and the service branches have failed to share information in any meaningful way about IED attacks, citing the “lack a comprehensive database of all existing counter-IED initiatives, limiting their visibility over counter-IED efforts across DOD.” The GAO says that while the counter bomb outfit is currently working on a new management system, it will only track JIEDDO-funded initiatives and “not those being independently developed and procured by the services and other DOD components.” With such “limited visibility, both JIEDDO and the services are at risk of duplicating efforts.”
This was a big issue at an often contentious House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, where Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, director of JIEDDO, told the committee that “I agree that we lack a comprehensive effort” to guard against duplication of efforts among the services, but assured them he was working on it. “There will be some natural friction” between the services and JIEDDO Metz said, when it comes to the battle for funding to get out in front of the problem.
The most strident pushback came from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca), who expressed frustration with the government’s inability to defeat the IED threat. Hunter charged that “there is no correlation” between the money spent on counter-IED efforts, the number of ISR assets in theater, and the number of American deaths. He said he didn’t see why the threat can’t be managed better, telling Metz point-blank that “the buck has to stop with you because we don't have anybody else … . There is no other IED defeat organization in Washington or anywhere else in the U.S. government ... whose sole mission is to stop IEDs.”
Also testifying at the hearing was William Solis from the GAO, who commented that “it’s going to take a Department effort” to address all of these problems, adding that “until these issues are dealt with its going to be very difficult for the organization to continue … to understand all the different solutions out there, what all of the different organizations are working on, is critical.”
I caught up with Gen. Metz after the hearing and asked him about the lack of a central database to track IED programs. He said that JIEDDO is “working on a database that has all of our efforts so that I can very quickly tell someone what did or did not work, and a log of all of the activity,” but that he is “not aware of any database that’s got all of the services’ efforts” collected in one place.
To be fair, we can’t dump all of this on JIEDDO. There is only so much the outfit can be expected to accomplish when its funding stream isn’t even in the base budget from year to year, its budget has been shrinking over the last several years, and it has been given no real authority to get the other service branches to share information. (Still, Metz’s office has been given $16 billion to play with over the past four years.) With each service branch jealously guarding its own turf, and more importantly, its own funding streams, there’s nothing Gen. Metz can do to compel the services to share information with him.