By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceMarch 2, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2007 - Defense leaders yesterday called on Congress to approve a further $2.4 billion to defeat the biggest killer of Americans in the Middle East: the improvised explosive device.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental request includes money to fund research into defeating IEDs. The money is in addition to $2 billion Congress already has appropriated this year to deal with the problem.
Gates stressed to the senators that this is an overriding concern in DoD. "The most unpleasant aspect of my job is every night going home and hand-writing notes to the families of those who have been killed in action," Gates said. "And there's a sheet behind every one of those letters that tells me how they died, and about 70 percent of them are the IEDs. So the whole Department of Defense is as highly motivated as an organization can be to try and figure out a way to get around these."
Gates said he has met with retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, the director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization. "I asked General Meigs, ... 'Do you have enough money' Are you pursuing every avenue that makes any sense at all''" he said. "And he assured me that with the enactment of the request that we have made both for the supplemental and then for (fiscal) '08 that he has the resources that he needs to do this."
Pace said the effort against IEDs is more than simply looking for a technological answer. Experts in Iraq learn from every device that explodes, then they take the information and share it widely "so the troops training right now to go over overseas in the future have the information from the most recent tactics, techniques and procedures of the enemy," Pace said.
Pace said the coalition and Iraqi forces look at the entire IED process, adding that coalition forces have secured 435,000 tons of ammunition from more than 15,000 locations in Iraq. "Just getting at the source of the explosives is part of the problem," he said, "then the factories where they're built, and the individuals who build them, and then the individuals who deliver them, and then the individuals who put them in place. So we go after the entire chain of events."
Pace said coalition and Iraqi security forces find more than half of IEDs that are emplaced. "And then, thanks to the technologies involved, we have fewer and fewer casualties for the explosions that do take place," he said.
There is no easy solution, Gates said, and the United States must keep pushing at the problem. "The reality is we face an agile and a smart adversary, and as soon as we ... find one way of trying to thwart their efforts, they find a new technology or a new way of going about their business," he said. "But I can assure you this is a very high priority for us."