By Jacob Boyer
U.S. Joint Forces Command
May 11, 2010 - The director of the organization tasked with overcoming the challenge posed by improvised explosive devices spoke about the future of counter-IED efforts to kick off the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference here today.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization director, told the audience that IEDs represent a threat that will grow in number and complexity in coming years.
"We will see IEDs or their derivatives find their way into civilized society in greater numbers," he said. "They'll be used by criminal enterprises. They'll be used by hybrid threats that seek to seek partners – either in the drug trafficking enterprise or other commercial business – to destabilize societies. We will certainly see them in the combat sphere for years to come, and we're going to see the technology of these devices become more difficult to defeat."
Oates said information sharing and analysis are crucial in enabling tactical commanders to stop IED networks.
"I absolutely believe that we have got to find a way ahead immediately to improve our information fusion, these databases for our tactical commanders," he said. "There is no shortage of data. There is a dearth of analysis."
Oates also focused on the need to deliver battlefield requirements quickly.
"We have got to rapidly receive demands from the field and turn a product back to the wartime commander in a time that he can use it," he said. "The timeline at JIEDDO is zero to 24 months, and I think we are failing. We need to turn some of these capabilities much faster. Days are like years for combat commanders. Their sense of urgency has got to be replicated within the industrial portion of the U.S. and our allies."
Oates concluded his remarks on a note of optimism.
"I do believe that this is winnable," he said. "I do believe that if we put our efforts together as partners with industry, academia, media and the national security apparatus, I do believe that we can make great progress toward defeating this capability, or at least rendering it much less effective, in the very near term. That is what I believe we need to provide to the combatant commanders, not in the next five years, but certainly in the next year to 18 months."
The theme for this year's three-day conference is "Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What Will They Need Five Years from Now?" The conference is an annual event that brings Defense Department officials together with representatives of industry, academia and multinational partners. It's co-sponsored by the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute in coordination with U.S. Joint Forces Command.