By Amber Corrin
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been the bane of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: lethal, difficult to detect and all too common.
As the defining weapon of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, IEDs killed 9,137 coalition troops, Afghan troops and civilians in Afghanistan in 2010, and 10,256 coalition troops, Iraqi troops and civilians in Iraq in 2010, according to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization’s 2010 annual report.
They’re also spreading beyond southwest Asia, averaging 260 IED events per month outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.
To deal with the daunting threat, JIEDDO is getting creative in the methods it’s employing to defeat IEDs, including the use of specialized intelligence focusing on IED source materials, and also robots being developed in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
As many as 80 percent of IEDs in Afghanistan are made from ammonium nitrate originating from Pakistani fertilizer plants, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, JIEDDO program executive officer. At a Land Warfare Institute briefing Nov. 10 in Arlington, Va., Barbero pushed for better intelligence that hones in on how the materials are getting from the plants in Pakistan into the hands of terrorists.
That increased focus on intelligence is proving fruitful already, but there’s still much progress that must be made, he said.
“From these two legally operating factories in Pakistan, we know where they are producing, we know who their distributors are -- and we are getting great support from them,” he said. “What we don't understand is how this ammonium nitrate gets from the factories to these insurgents. That’s the greatest intelligence gap we have.”
With that information, the military can track financial data – and can enlist in the Treasury and State departments to help, Barbero said.
DOD also is looking at another avenue of attack: robotic tools that can help dismounted troops investigate more safely. JIEDDO recently coordinated with NIST on a three-week testing exercise in which the performance of the six robots JIEDDO tested, and that of more than 80 that were previously tested at the same site by the Homeland Security Department.
“The intended outcome is to establish a baseline for performance in standard robotics functions,” Matt Way, program integrator, who oversaw the event for JIEDDO, said in a media release. “Ultimately, these exercises will reduce performance risk in theater.”
Posted on Nov 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM6 comments
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon briefing Sept. 20, both reiterated previous warnings against the “devastating” cuts to defense spending that could result from the institution of a sequestration that would level billions in across-the-board budget cuts.
To avoid the sequestration, which would automatically kick in if a congressional supercommittee charged with identifying federal savings fails to agree on action, Panetta said he is focusing his efforts on protecting against potentially detrimental reductions in defense spending.
“There will be tough decisions and tough trade-offs. This will force us to take on greater risk,” Panetta said, adding that his goal is to ensure inevitable risks are acceptable by maintaining the all-volunteer force and securing core national interests. “We still face a devastating [sequestration] that will make us unable to protect against a range of threats.”
He also warned that the impact of sequestration-enacted cuts would hurt more than just defense and national security, stressing that drastic reductions and the cancellation of major weapons programs also would cripple the industrial base.
Panetta recently said that the sequestration cuts could add 1 percent to the national unemployment rate from job losses in government, military and private sector jobs within the defense industrial base. Citing a new Pentagon analysis, DOD spokesman George Little said the defense industrial base provides 3.8 million private sector jobs, per the Associated Press.
In what was likely his last press conference as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen echoed Panetta’s comments and pressed for aggressive action in identifying savings within DOD.
“These must be strategy-driven decisions ... that start with a clear-eyed assessment. We should end missions and capabilities that don’t comport with our strategy,” Mullen said.
Both officials stressed the need to see the budget pressure as a chance to trim the excess in DOD budgets.
“We should use this as an opportunity to shape the very best defense we can for this country ... so we can take on the threats we face over the next 10 years,” Panetta said. “We have an opportunity to set priority here.”
Posted on Sep 20, 2011 at 12:14 PM8 comments
In keeping with broader Defense Department data center consolidation plans, the Army just announced its own major steps forward in reducing its vast quantities of servers and data centers.
The Army IT Agency says it has eliminated more than 30 thousand square feet of data center flooring under Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative efforts. The agency says it also has reduced user-software license cost by 10 percent, increased processor performance by 40 percent through mainframe efficiencies and increased server virtualization capacity by 30 percent, according to its news release.
"As the information technology service provider for the Pentagon and the National Capital Region, we consistently strive to meet the technology demands of our customers and support the mission of America's war fighters," ITA Executive Director Donald Adcock said in the release.
That support includes the hosting of mission-essential data on more than 6,500 servers for customers including the White House, the Red Cross and the entire Army Department headquarters.
In August, DOD CIO Teri Takai announced plans to shut down 44 military data centers by the end of fiscal 2011. As that deadline approaches, her office has yet to respond to requests for more information on exactly which data centers those will include, but Takai said last month that at least eight centers have already closed.
“DOD remains committed to identifying candidates for data center closure and consolidation in support of the [defense secretary’s] efficiency efforts and the IT Reform plan goal of closing 800 federal data centers by 2015,” Takai wrote in a blog post on cio.gov. "We are making progress on several initiatives that will increase our efficiency and effectiveness in developing systems to support our nation’s warfighters, without sacrificing security."
Posted on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:14 PM0 comments