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Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices: Multiple DOD Organizations are Developing Numerous Initiatives

GAO-12-861R Published: Aug 01, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 01, 2012.
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What GAO Found

We identified 1,340 potential, separate initiatives that DOD funded from fiscal year 2008 through the first quarter of fiscal year 2012 that, in DOD officials’ opinion, met the above definition for C-IED initiatives. We relied on our survey, in part, to determine this number because DOD has not determined, and does not have a ready means for determining, the universe of C-IED initiatives. Of the 1,340 initiatives, we received detailed survey responses confirming that 711 initiatives met our C-IED definition. Of the remaining 629 initiatives for which we did not receive survey responses, 481 were JIEDDO initiatives. JIEDDO officials attribute their low survey returns for reasons including that C-IED initiatives are currently not fully identified, catalogued, and retrievable; however, they expect updates to their information technology system will correct this deficiency. Our survey also identified 45 different organizations that DOD is funding to undertake these 1,340 identified initiatives. Some of these organizations receive JIEDDO funding while others receive other DOD funding. We documented $4.8 billion of DOD funds expended in fiscal year 2011 in support of C-IED initiatives, but this amount is understated because we did not receive survey data confirming DOD funding for all initiatives. As an example, at least 94 of the 711 responses did not include funding amounts for associated C-IED initiatives. Further, the DOD agency with the greatest number of C-IED initiatives identified—JIEDDO—did not return surveys for 81 percent of its initiatives.

Our survey results showed that multiple C-IED initiatives were concentrated within some areas of development, resulting in overlap within DOD for these efforts—i.e., programs engaged in similar activities to achieve similar goals or target similar beneficiaries. For example, our survey data identified 19 organizations with 107 initiatives being developed to combat cell phone-triggered IEDs. While the concentration of initiatives in itself does not constitute duplication, this concentration taken together with the high number of different DOD organizations that are undertaking these initiatives and JIEDDO’s inability to identify and compare C-IED initiatives, demonstrates overlap and the potential for duplication of effort. According to JIEDDO officials, the organization has a robust coordinating process in place that precludes unintended overlap. However, through our survey and follow-up with relevant agency officials, we found examples of overlap in the following areas: (1) IED-related intelligence analysis: two organizations were producing and disseminating similar IED-related intelligence products to the warfighter, (2) C-IED hardware development: two organizations were developing similar robotics for detecting IEDs from a safe distance, and (3) IED detection: two organizations had developed C-IED initiatives using chemical sensors that were similar in their technologies and capabilities.

Our survey results showed that a majority of respondents said they communicated with JIEDDO regarding their C-IED initiatives; however, JIEDDO does not consistently record and track this data. Based on our prior work, JIEDDO does not have a mechanism for recording data communicated on C-IED efforts. Therefore, these data are not available for analysis by JIEDDO or others in DOD to reduce the risk of duplicating efforts and avoid repeating mistakes.

Why GAO Did This Study

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the enemy's weapon of choice (e.g., 16,500 IEDs were detonated or discovered being used against U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2011) and, according to the Department of Defense (DOD) will probably be a mainstay in any present and future conflict given their low cost to develop coupled with their potential for strategic impact. Multiple DOD components, including the military services, have been pursuing counter-IED (C-IED) efforts leading up to June 2005 when DOD established the Joint IED Defeat Task Force followed in 2006 with the establishment of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) to lead and coordinate all DOD actions to defeat IEDs. From fiscal years 2006 through 2011, JIEDDO has received over $18 billion in funding, however, DOD has funded other C-IED efforts outside of JIEDDO, including $40 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

We reported in February 2012 that DOD does not have full visibility over all of its C-IED efforts. DOD relies on various sources and systems for managing its C-IED efforts, but has not developed a process that provides DOD with a comprehensive listing of its C-IED initiatives and activities. In response to our recommendation that the Secretary of Defense direct JIEDDO to develop an implementation plan for the establishment of DOD’s C-IED database including a detailed timeline with milestones to help achieve this goal, DOD officials said that a revision of DOD's Directive 2000.19E will contain a new task requiring combatant commands, the military services, and DOD agencies to report C-IED initiatives to JIEDDO. This would include programming and funding pursued by a military service, combatant command, or other DOD component, in addition to activities funded by JIEDDO. In January 2012, DOD estimated it would complete draft revisions to DOD Directive 2000.19E in early 2012, but as of July 2012, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) officials stated that the revised draft was under review at the OSD level, and therefore, not issued. In addition, according to JIEDDO officials, DOD is conducting an ongoing review of C-IED capabilities across the Department that may affect JIEDDO and the contents of the draft directive.

This report responds to congressional request asking us to examine the potential for overlap and duplication in DOD's C-IED efforts. Because DOD lacks a comprehensive database of C-IED initiatives, we conducted a department-wide survey to determine (1) the number of different C-IED initiatives and the organizations developing them from fiscal year 2008 through the closing date of our survey, January 6, 2012, and the extent to which DOD is funding these initiatives, and (2) the extent and nature of any overlap that could lead to duplication of C-IED efforts. In July 2012, we briefed committee staff on the results of our survey and analysis.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431, or

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Improvised explosive devicesDatabase management systemsSurveysWarfighter supportMilitary communicationAuditsFinancial managementAppropriationsMilitary intelligenceMunitions