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Defense > 4. Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Efforts

The Department of Defense continues to risk duplication in its multibillion-dollar counter Improvised Explosive Device efforts because it does not have a comprehensive database of its projects and initiatives.

Why This Area Is Important

The threat of improvised explosive devices (IED) continues to be a major concern in Afghanistan, as well as to other areas throughout the world with over 500 reported IED events per month worldwide outside of Southwest Asia according to Department of Defense (DOD) officials. Further, there is widespread consensus in DOD that this threat will not go away and that IEDs will continue to be a weapon of strategic influence in future conflicts. In support of the fight against IEDs, Congress has appropriated over $18 billion to the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)[1] from fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2011 to address the IED threat. In addition, other DOD components, including the military services, also have spent billions of dollars from their own funds developing counter-IED capabilities. For example, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Task Force, which leads DOD’s efforts to produce and field Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to protect troops against IEDs and other threats, received over $40 billion from fiscal years 2005 through 2010. With the current fiscal challenges facing the nation, it will be important for DOD to coordinate its counter-IED efforts in order to use funds efficiently.

As GAO reported in March 2011, there are several examples of duplication in DOD’s counter-IED efforts and neither JIEDDO nor any other DOD organization had full visibility over all of DOD’s counter-IED efforts.[2] GAO also reported in February 2012 on additional examples of potential duplication in DOD’s counter-IED efforts.

[1]This total represents appropriations and rescissions made to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund for JIEDDO. Prior to the establishment of JIEDDO in 2006, no single entity was responsible for coordinating DOD’s counter-IED efforts. A primary role for JIEDDO is to provide funding and assistance to rapidly develop, acquire, and field counter-IED solutions.

[2]GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.: March 1, 2011).

What GAO Found

DOD does not have full visibility over all of its counter-IED efforts. DOD relies on various sources and systems for managing its counter-IED efforts, but has not developed a process that provides DOD with a comprehensive listing of its counter-IED initiatives and activities. For example, JIEDDO has developed the JIEDDO Enterprise Management System to manage its own operations by collecting and reporting cost and other information related to JIEDDO’s organizational and funds management, its coordination of JIEDDO-funded projects and projects funded by other DOD activities, its administrative activities, and its own counter-IED projects. However, while this system contains information that could be used to identify individual initiatives, it does not automatically separate costs directly expended on counter-IED initiatives from JIEDDO’s overhead and infrastructure costs such as facilities, contractor support, pay and benefits, and travel. Consequently, this system does not provide an automated means to comprehensively and rapidly identify and list all of JIEDDO’s counter-IED initiatives. Further, even if it did collect this information, the system is limited to JIEDDO, and therefore would not include a comprehensive listing of other DOD efforts outside of JIEDDO. However, JIEDDO is currently developing a new information technology architecture and plans to develop a database for counter-IED efforts across DOD as part of this new architecture. This effort is in the conceptualization stage, and JIEDDO officials do not anticipate completion before the end of fiscal year 2012. Further, JIEDDO does not have an implementation plan that includes a detailed timeline with milestones to help track its progress in achieving this goal.

Without a comprehensive listing of counter-IED initiatives, DOD components may be unaware of the total spectrum of counter-IED efforts within the department, and thereby continue to independently pursue counter-IED efforts that focus on similar technologies and may be duplicative. GAO identified three examples of potential duplication within DOD counter-IED efforts focusing on relatively high-cost areas.

  • Counter-IED directed energy technology: The military services have developed six systems that emit energy directed at IEDs to neutralize them.[1] DOD has spent about $104 million collectively on these efforts to date. However, given the lack of a DOD-wide counter-IED database, there could be more directed energy efforts that GAO has not identified. Concerns regarding duplication in DOD’s directed energy efforts vis-à-vis counter-IEDs have risen to the highest levels within DOD’s warfighter community. Specifically, the commander of U.S. Central Command, in August 2011, conveyed concern regarding issues including apparent “duplicity of (development) effort” in directed energy technology with organizations (in DOD) working different solutions. The correspondence called for coordination and cooperation by DOD on its directed energy efforts to develop a directed energy system that works in theater as quickly as possible given that the development has been under way since 2008. In response in August 2011, JIEDDO, as DOD’s coordinating agency for these efforts, developed a plan and, in September 2011, brought various service program offices together to develop a solution as soon as possible. According to JIEDDO officials, the six systems will continue in development through fiscal year 2012, at which point, JIEDDO will determine which of the systems best satisfies U.S. Central Command’s requirement. While this new approach may eliminate future unnecessary duplication of effort, earlier coordination and better visibility could have prevented duplication that may have occurred up to this point.
  • Radio-frequency jamming systems:The Army and Navy continue to pursue separate development of counter-IED jamming systems, which provide a limited radius of protection to prevent IEDs from being triggered by an enemy’s radio signals. In 2007, DOD established the Navy as the single manager and executive agent for ground-based jamming.[2] Under DOD Directive 5101.14, military servicesmay conduct ground-based jammer research and development to satisfy military service-unique requirements if the requirements are coordinated before initiation with the DOD’s single manager for jammers and, for any system or system modifications resulting from such efforts, operational technical characteristics and logistics plans are approved by the single manager. The Navy has developed a standard technology and system for ground-based jamming called JCREW I1B1, which DOD has designated as the ground-based jamming program for the entire department. However, the Army has continued to develop its own ground-based jamming system called Duke.

In 2010, according to Navy officials, the Army continued to develop new technology for insertion into its Duke system—expected to cost about $1.062 billion when completed and installed—without notifying and coordinating with the Navy. According to Army officials, the Army is pursuing development of its own system because it intends to expand the use of this technology for purposes other than countering IEDs, such as jamming enemy command, control, and communication systems. However, according to Navy officials, the CREW system’s technology has the flexibility and capacity to expand and provide the same additional functions as the Army plans for its Duke system. Moreover, according to Navy officials, the Navy’s system is further along in its development. Because the Navy and Army are pursuing separate jamming systems, it is not clear if DOD is taking the most cost-effective approach. While, according to JIEDDO officials, the Office of the Secretary of Defense was considering how to resolve this issue, a decision had not been made before GAO’s report was completed. Regardless of the final outcome, however, a more coordinated approach early in the process when initiating programs of this magnitude could prevent unnecessary duplication in costs and effort.

  • Electronic data collection systems: According to JIEDDO officials, JIEDDO has funded the development and support of approximately 70 electronic data collection and analysis tools that overlap to some degree because they include capabilities to collect, analyze, and store data to help the warfighter combat the IED threat. Although JIEDDO recently reported that it could not verify total funding for its information technology investments,[3] GAO determined through a review of DOD financial records that the department has expended at least $184 million collectively on information technology development for its data collection and analysis tools.

According to JIEDDO officials, JIEDDO is aware of the redundancy within these electronic tools. In April 2011, the JIEDDO Deputy Director for Information Management raised the issue of redundancy in JIEDDO’s information technology systems, including its counter-IED data collection and analysis systems and tools. Consequently, since April 2011, JIEDDO has worked to eliminate overlapping information technology capabilities where feasible, including among the approximately 70 analytical tools JIEDDO has funded and developed for use in countering IED networks. For example, on July 1, 2011, JIEDDO discontinued funding for one of these initiatives—Tripwire Analytical Capability—citing as reasons the initiative’s limited purpose, high cost, and duplicative capabilities.

However, in making its decision to discontinue the Tripwire Analytical Capability, yet continue operating the other data collection and analysis tools, JIEDDO had not compared and quantified all of the potential options to streamline or consolidate these tools to create a single, collective system that includes extracting data on counter-IED efforts across DOD. As a result, JIEDDO cannot be certain it is pursuing the most advantageous approach for collecting, analyzing, storing, and using available data for combating the IED threat. Further, although JIEDDO has discontinued funding the Tripwire Analytical Capability, the Defense Intelligence Agency is continuing to develop the tool for its own use, resulting in the potential for DOD-wide duplication between the Tripwire Analytical Capability and JIEDDO’s other data collection and analysis tools.

These above three examples of potential duplication are based on GAO’s examination of selected efforts identified during its review of DOD’s progress in developing a comprehensive DOD-wide counter-IED database. However, given the continued absence of a database and a process to identify and reduce duplication in DOD’s counter-IED efforts, the potential exists for additional cases of duplication.

[1]The specific capability gap addressed by this technology is classified and therefore not discussed in this report.

[2]See Department of Defense Directive 5101.14, DoD Executive Agent and Single Manager for Military Ground-Based Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (CREW) Technology, ¶ 5.3.1 (June 11, 2007) (requiring the Secretary of the Navy to designate a single manager).

[3]Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization Office of Internal Review, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization: Information Technology Investment Management, Report of Audit 2011-07-002 (September 6, 2011).

Actions Needed


To improve visibility of its collective counter-IED expenditures and investments, GAO has in prior years recommended that DOD develop a database of all department-wide counter-IED efforts. However, after expending billions of dollars on developing counter-IED capabilities, DOD has not made progress in establishing such a database. Consequently, GAO recommended in February 2012 that DOD should

  • develop an implementation plan, including a detailed timeline with milestones to help achieve this goal; and
  • develop a process to use this database once it is established to identify and reduce duplication, overlap, and fragmentation among its counter-IED initiatives.

It is essential that DOD follow-through in implementing GAO’s recommendations to address the risk of duplication in its multibillion-dollar counter-IED expenditures and investments. Given that JIEDDO and other DOD organizations have spent billions of dollars on counter-IED efforts, cost savings could be significant should DOD focus on reducing duplication across its counter-IED efforts.

How GAO Conducted Its Work

The information contained in this analysis is based on findings from the products in the related GAO products section. GAO reviewed JIEDDO databases on counter-IED efforts and interviewed DOD, military service, and JIEDDO officials to determine the degree of comprehensive visibility regarding DOD’s counter-IED efforts. GAO identified and evaluated examples of potential duplication using information from interviews with DOD officials and data and documentation collected that evidenced similar capabilities and objectives among two or more counter-IED efforts.

Agency Comments & GAO Contact

GAO provided a draft of its February 2012 report to DOD for review and comment. DOD agreed with GAO’s recommendation to develop an implementation plan for the establishment of DOD’s counter- IED database. The department did not agree with the recommendation to develop a means to identify and reduce any duplication, overlap, and fragmentation among counter-IED initiatives, stating that it had existing processes to facilitate coordination and collaboration with the military services and across DOD, which would address this recommendation. GAO agrees that existing DOD processes such as JIEDDO’s Capabilities Development Process and DOD’s Senior Integration Group prioritization process can be helpful in coordinating DOD’s counter-IED efforts. However, the effectiveness of these processes has been limited given that they did not prevent the instances of potential duplication GAO identified. For example, in the case of DOD’s directed energy counter-IED efforts where DOD has collectively expended $104 million, the processes cited by DOD in its response did not identify and resolve the potential duplication present in these efforts. As a result the commander of U.S. Central Command, as mentioned previously, protested in writing to DOD officials about potential duplication of efforts. Without a process to use DOD’s counter-IED database, once it is developed, DOD will continue to lack assurance that it is identifying and addressing instances of potential duplication before making significant investments. In finalizing its February 2012 report, GAO modified the wording of the recommendation to clarify the intent that DOD establish a process to use its counter-IED data base once it is established.


For additional information about this area, contact Cary B. Russell at (404) 679-1808 or

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