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Improvised explosive threat reaches global scale.

IN MARCH 2006 ALONE, about 750 improvised explosive device attacks occurred around the world, according to a senior Defense Department official.

And while the word "roadside bomb" only seems to have entered the public's lexicon during the past three years, using explosives in unconventional ways to assassinate or spread terror has been a tactic for decades.

"It's a very simple weapon with huge strategic capabilities and strategic influence," said Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy director of the joint lED defeat organization. The bombs are easy to build and use, plus their costs are low, he added.

Information on how to use IEDs is being shared across regions and between loosely connected groups, said David Tillotson III, deputy chief of war-fighting integration and deputy chief information officer for the secretary of the Air Force.

"What we see in Iraq today, we may see in Afghanistan tomorrow, and you may see in the Philippines next week," he said, speaking at a Defense News Media Group conference.

The joint lED defeat organization has a three-pronged approach to tackling the problem in Iraq and Afghanistan: defeat the network or the system providing the bombs, defeat the devices themselves, and train ground forces to detect and avoid falling victim.

As for training, the task force has created a cadre of specialists based at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who embed with brigades six to nine months prior to deployment. It's their job to provide the latest counter-lED tactics during training. The specialists remain with the units for the crucial first 30 to 45 days, when soldiers are still on the learning curve. They then transition their responsibility to field teams, which remain permanently in theater, Allyn said.

There is a constant flow of information between these teams and the specialists embedded stateside on the latest tactics employed by the insurgents, Allyn said.

And the tactics are constantly changing.

"They don't stop doing one tactic when they move on to a new one," Allyn said. The old methods remain in their toolkits, he said. "We have to think ahead where he is going next."

Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, deputy commanding general of system of systems integration of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command at Fort Belvoir, Va., is responsible for speeding counter IED technologies to the field. But he estimates that technology is only 10 to 20 percent of the solution.

"All the low hanging fruit, all the quick fixes, I pretty much believe have been harvested," Brown said of the technological solutions.

The military can spend a lot of money coming up with a new lED defeat system, but the enemy can quickly shift tactics and mitigate its effects, he added.

"We're in love with technology. We think that technology can solve anything. It can solve a lot of things, but it can't solve everything," Brown said.

The latest tactic used by the insurgents harkens back to the landmines. They're just "a big old honking hole in the ground where they put lots of explosives and a pressure plate detonator," Brown said. They don't use radio frequencies, and therefore, can't be jammed, he said.

Allyn said, "the end state of successful accomplishment of our mission is eliminating the improvised explosive device as a weapon of strategic influence for the enemy. It's no singular, simple task."--STEW MAGNUSON
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Title Annotation:usage of Improvised Explosive Devices
Author:Magnuson, Stew
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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