GAO-11-318SP: Defense: Opportunities exist to avoid unnecessary redundancies and improve the coordination of counter-improvised explosive device efforts


Opportunities exist to avoid unnecessary redundancies and improve the coordination of counter-improvised explosive device efforts

Why Area Is Important


Improvised explosive devices (IED) continue to be the number one threat to U.S. troops. IED incidents in Afghanistan numbered 1,128 in the month of May 2010—a 120 percent increase over the prior year. In addition to Afghanistan incidents, the IED threat is increasingly expanding throughout the globe with over 300 IED events per month worldwide, according to the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). The Department of Defense (DOD) created this organization in 2006, reporting directly to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, to lead and coordinate all of DOD's counter-IED efforts. While Congress has appropriated over $17 billion to JIEDDO through fiscal year 2010 to address the IED threat, other DOD components, including the Armed Services, have devoted at least
$1.5 billion to develop their own counter-IED solutions.

What GAO Found

DOD created JIEDDO to lead and coordinate all of DOD's counter-IED efforts, but many of the organizations engaged in the counter-IED-defeat effort prior to the creation of JIEDDO have continued to develop, maintain, and expand their own IED-defeat capabilities. GAO has preliminarily identified several instances in which DOD entities operate independently and may have developed duplicate counter-IED capabilities. For example, both the Army and the Marine Corps continue to develop their own counter-IED mine rollers with full or partial JIEDDO funding. The Marine Corps' mine roller per unit cost is about $85,000 versus a cost range of $77,000 to $225,000 per unit for the Army mine roller. However officials disagree about which system is most effective, and DOD has not conducted comparative testing and evaluation of the two systems. Additionally, JIEDDO does not adequately involve the Services in its process to select initiatives. For example, the Navy developed a directed energy technology to fill a critical theater capability gap, yet JIEDDO later underwrote the Air Force's development of the same technology for use in a different system. However, the Air Force has now determined that its system will not meet requirements and has deferred fielding it pending further study. This may have a negative impact on the continued development of this technology by the Navy or others for use in theater. For example, according to DOD officials, during the recent testing of the Air Force's system, safety concerns were noted unique to that system that may limit warfighters' willingness to accept the technology.


Eliminating unnecessary duplication and enabling effective coordination in counter-IED efforts is hindered, in part, because neither JIEDDO nor any other DOD organization has full visibility over all of DOD's counter-IED efforts. GAO has recommended that DOD establish a DOD-wide database for all counter-IED initiatives to establish comprehensive visibility, however, DOD has yet to develop such a tool. According to DOD officials, DOD had initiated a database—the Technology Matrix—to establish a comprehensive list of counter-IED efforts and the organizations sponsoring these efforts; however, DOD has not required its various organizations involved in developing counter-IED solutions to use this database nor otherwise taken action to ensure these organizations provide information to JIEDDO on their respective counter-IED efforts. Therefore, the database has not been as comprehensive as intended. To date, DOD's senior leadership has not taken adequate action to facilitate improved visibility, coordination, and authority for JIEDDO to address these shortcomings. This lack of leadership attention may be another key factor contributing to the lack of full visibility and effective coordination of the wide range of counter-IED measures conducted throughout DOD. Consequently, DOD components and the Services continue to pursue counter-IED efforts independent of one another that may be redundant or overlapping.

Actions Needed

DOD has taken steps to address several of GAO's prior recommendations regarding the improvement of its counter-IED programs, such as revising JIEDDO's process for evaluating and implementing counter-IED solutions. However, 5 years after its coordination efforts began through JIEDDO, DOD has still not achieved full visibility over all of its counter-IED investments and resources nor has it required comprehensive data from all DOD components and the Services to enable effective coordination. JIEDDO has encountered difficulty obtaining information on all counter-IED efforts, in part, because according to JIEDDO officials, the Services and components are not inclined to share this information. Therefore, DOD's senior leadership, to include the Deputy Secretary of Defense, should consider what actions the department can take to assure that JIEDDO can centrally collect information and coordinate efforts and whether it should enhance JIEDDO's tools to ensure all information on DOD-wide counter-IED programs is centrally collected and evaluated to limit unnecessary duplication, overlap, and fragmentation. DOD leadership should also take a more active role to ensure investment decisions of each of the individual counter-IED activities are consistent with DOD's overarching counter-IED goals and objectives and that they are pursued in a coordinated and efficient manner.

Framework for Analysis

The information contained in this analysis is based on prior GAO products listed under the "Related GAO Products" tab, as well as GAO's ongoing work on DOD's counter-IED efforts. As part of this ongoing work GAO will comprehensively identify, to the extent possible, all counter-IED organizations and efforts within DOD, and collect quantitative data on these efforts such as the funds invested and the number of persons engaged in these efforts. Using these data, GAO will evaluate the nature and extent of any overlap or duplication, as well as the potential for consolidation, improved coordination, or other efficiencies. GAO is also evaluating DOD's progress in improving visibility over all counter-IED efforts.

Area Contact

For additional information about this area, contact William M. Solis at (202) 512-8365 or

Related GAO Products