After six years and nearly $19 billion in spending, the Pentagon task force assigned to create better ways to detect bombs has revealed their findings: The best bomb detector is...a dog.
The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO (the Pentagon should really take a page from DARPA and make catchier acronyms) has been working on this problem for years, but it's only getting more serious. There have been more roadside bombs in Afghanistan in the first eight months of this year than in the same period in 2009, so the work JIEDDO is doing is under extra scrutiny.
That made it even more embarrassing when the director of the organization told a conference yesterday that "Dogs are the best detectors." As it turns out, the most sophisticated detectors JIEDDO could come up with tend to locate only 50% of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq. When soldiers are accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs, that number goes up to 80%. That director, Lieutenant General Michael Oates, told the conference that his organization now focuses on disrupting the use of IEDs, rather than flat-out detecting them...because they haven't make all that much progress on the detection front.
Instead of detection, JIEDDO now spends money on drones to find those planting IEDs, radio jammers to screw with the frequencies used to detonate the bombs, and lots of aerial sensors to scan bomb-heavy areas. That's all useful, but Congress has recently shown a lack of confidence in the group's accomplishments, its focus, and in the way its funds are being spent. In response, the House Armed Services Committee cut the group's budget by nearly half a billion dollars--which, as it turns out, can train a whole lot of bomb-sniffing dogs, or at least buy some sweet dog armor.
Chuck, I liked it more when you stuck to Twitter.
This reminds of that joke where it says NASA spent Millions of $$$ to create a pen that would work in space (sub zero temps) and they are all celebrating this accomplishment...
while Russians took a PENCIL with them...
Once again, man's best friend comes serves dutifully by his side. Some of that $18B would have been better spent on a program to give a second chance to many of the abandoned dogs still at rescues and shelters...
Our government is so evil
I'm against waste as much as anyone, but no one knew the project would fail to surpass the dog. If they had found something that worked, I'm sure we'd all be celebrating and speculating about how to use that technology in space or nanomachines.
In hindsight, everyone would know the correct decision to make. However, NASA has more than made up for the money it's used/wasted with discoveries and inventions that have led to a host of other things that have become common, everyday, and indispensable to the average person in America.
NASA pioneers some of the most cutting edge, state-of-the-art technology and it has trickled down to other areas. There are markets for stuff that didn't exist before...creating jobs and money.
For instance, they developed the first thrust vectoring system for jet aircraft...now, everyone and their grandmas want jets that can turn on a dime and only with thrust vectoring is that possible.
There are other things that they've created, other people know them as well...too many for me to list anyways.
I could have told DARPA that for only a billion dollars!
we have to addmit the feds tried digital sensors to find those ieds but we already knew that dogs with thier supprior smell would do better. unless we can electronicaly replicate the dogs nose with the same reliability, we will be stuck with a biological IED finder
When NASA spent all that money creating the pen and the Russians just used pencils...yes, there's just so much to this isn't there.
What the article doesn't mention though is the value of dogs.
You know if we just kept these kids in school and gave them more homework, I doubt they'd be out planting IEDs. Maybe they should have commercials on TV saying "It's 10pm, do you know where your kids are?".
We should just commercialize Afghanistan and Iraq. Give them cable, Wegmans, Toyotas, cell phones, MTV and Wii. Add in some Oprah, Loews movie theaters, swimming pools, skate boards and fashion and top it all off with vacations, jobs, health care and a weekend where they mow the lawn and drink beer. Terrorism would be gone in a year.
They Should Also realize if we do decide to venture to space and colonize. Dogs will need to go with us too! They been invaluable throughout human history and I believe they will continue to be so.
Anyone that doesn't think we waste too much money on defense should look at how much we spend on education.
Maybe if we invested more in our education system, it wouldn't have taken us $19 billion and 6 years to figure this out.
And again anyone that disagrees with me should look at how much of the US budget (our tax dollars) is spent on education and how much is spent on defense.
I would rather the government spend on research and military then in private companies like GM.
The government in my eyes is there to take care of basic needs of people who cant take care of themself or fund the military and/or research that private company have no interest in, like ''NASA'' for exemple.
On top of that, money spend on those research makes scientist works on stuff that could lead to improvement of technology that could in return improve everyone life.
Its way better then spending on companies like GM who over pays there worker an average of 175k a year for a job that requires no education and to produce stuff that no body wants.
Obama fail ftl
Money was used...not wasted. We used it to find out what we don't know.
Sometimes things that seem obvious are wrong...larger things don't fall faster, earth-wind-fire-water are not the four elements, etc...
Knowledge takes time and time is money. While a dog is the best scent detector, for now, a synthetic detector is still preferable for many reasons.
"We Entertain When It Rains"
its easy to look back on something and claim it was a waste of money, but you cannot look back on something you never did in the first place.
I won't say our government doesn't waste money, but things like this are pretty justified in my mind, they set out to build a better bomb detector, a noble and necessary (even the 80% with a dog is far too low, imo) goal. It turns out that we can't beat dogs yet. that doesn't mean the money was wasted, I'm sure they learned a ton about the subject that can be applied to other areas.
Its hard to waste money on science as long as science is actualy being done, desired results or not. Science can always answer a question, even if the answer is "No" or "Not Yet". and any answered question is worthwhile.
I met with the JIEDDO senior tech officer at the food court under Crystal City (next subway stop beyond the Pentagon). After an 1 ½ hour discussion, of which I took control of when I realized that he didn’t know what he was talking about, he stated, “the best way to present your idea is to pass out brochures to our soldiers in Baghdad bars…………. I was flabbergasted. I asked my Senator for help to address this issue. After 6 months, the JIEDDO group issued a letter stating that they had never met with me, yet I have their e-mails. I learned from political contacts that “loosing my data” means that they don’t want to be caught in error, and this is standard practice for inept groups. In addition, I met with Senior IED technicians, mentioned this meeting, and they stated, “the JIEDDO group is simply a means for senior officers to award large contacts to private firms, then retire from the military, then become corporate officers of the companies they awarded contract to, this is well known in the military". I asked a very high Defense contact about the JIEDDO group, he said, “they change their mind and direction every week”. This group needs to be eliminated and DARPA needs to take control. Of dogs, reports I have seen and interviews of soldiers state that dogs work, but when an IED goes off it may take 2-3 days for the air to clear of the explosive fumes, dogs’ paws can be badly burned on the hot asphalt, that dogs get thirsty, and they get tired. My point, there is not one solution to this problem, but the more tools we give our soldiers the more likely they are to address problems. Of JIEDDO, eliminate them ASAP, and immediately save billions/year..
It is just so sad that so much money gets wasted...just imagine what could be done with 19 billion for health research...
And another point for GOD.
@buffsterboy12: "And another point for DOG", would be a more accurate expression.
Makes sense ... Considering that Iran discovered (long ago) that the "BEST BOMBs" are orphans and widows with "Jihadi-Martyr" Tee-shirts and "slap-switch" detonators.
Berkas for bombers !
God I hate it when the liberals chime in about our government spending. "More money for education! Stop giving money to corporations and 'wasting' it on military and defense projects!" First of all, when the hell did giving more money to someone make them a better teacher? Our education system's problems don't manifest themselves from the amount of money spent on our teachers or our schools, they come from the lack of good teachers and actual time spent in class, and from paying TOO MUCH to teachers. Why does a school need a principle that makes $80K a year with a half-dozen assistants (call them what you want - administrators, planners, etc...)that don't really do anything, while every teacher has a teacher's assistant that does most of their work for them? Our teachers in the U.S. don't work weekends, they get 5-10 minute breaks 4 to 5 times a day in between classes and have the summers off. Maybe they should work hourly instead of having a salary? On second thought, the liberal and teacher's unions would NEVER allow that to happen. There's the government at it's best providing you with jobs, my friend.
The government needs to stop wasting money on our prison system, IMHO. We spend $30+ billion dollars on our prison systems EVERY YEAR, and you can't tell me that that's not a waste. I say more electric chairs and fewer flat-panel TV's inside the prisons, and fewer prisons in general. If someone steals something, off with their hand. It's free punishment and I guarantee you they won't steal again! $30 billion is more than enough money to provide the world with clean drinking water, btw...
Anyway, I'm sorry for rambling on. Dogs are AWESOME!
I love all of the conservative rebuttals to my comments. Particularly the ones that assume I am a liberal, or just simply spewing out liberal talking points. My opinion was a statement of purely what we INVEST in as a nation. There is nothing wrong with having a great military (which we do, and I am more than thankful for it). But the fact that we spend $515 billion on Defense and only $45 billion on Education is a serious PRIORITY IMBALANCE.
We should always invest heavily in having the best military in the world, but we should also give the same attention to having the best minds in the world.
Is it just me or were you quoting Sharia law there with that 'off with their hands' ! statement :)
For $50.00 bucks i could of told them that.
This posting is mostly accurate but incomplete and I would like to provide your readers the rest of the story so they are informed participants in the discussion of this critical topic.
The most effective way to detect an explosive device in Afghanistan is to have one of our soldiers working alongside an Afghan national on foot with a bomb-detection dog; but it is not our preferred solution, nor does the dog represent the totality of effort in the counter-IED process. The “drones, metal detectors, chemical sniffers, and super spycams” you refer to are major contributing elements in our efforts to keep our soldiers and Marines safe and targeting the networks that use IEDs. They are not ineffective and expensive capabilities as intimated in the posting. These assets have and continue to save the lives of our troops; a price we are happy to pay.
The significant increase in IED incidents in Afghanistan you pointed out is a direct result of the surge of coalition forces pushing into areas formerly controlled by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. As we push more people into the area, the Taliban respond by planting more IEDs, thus the rise in attacks. You can’t look at the numbers without context. In the last 2 months our troops have effectively displaced many of the Taliban and have regained the initiative. The resulting downturn in IED incidents I believe is a trend we will now sustain.
Most importantly, JIEDDO is not only about technology. Defeating the device is only one of three lines of operation. Attacking the overall IED network plays a key part in keeping our people safe, as does the training we provide our troops prior to deployment.
We know that success in the counter-IED fight is not achievable solely by killing IED emplacers. Our units are being successful now by focusing on the entire supply and facilitation chain to reduce IED effectiveness. As proven in Iraq, we must establish a relationship with the local population and protect them from the enemy. As you pointed out, we must have a “deeper understanding of the local sociopolitical landscape” if we want to be successful in stemming the flow of IEDs and IED materials into the country.
Last, but certainly not least, training is the most underappreciated aspect of JIEDDO’s counter – IED efforts. During the last four years, JIEDDO has contributed $2 billion to provide the most realistic C-IED training to forces preparing to deploy to the Afghanistan area.
I can’t tell you how many lives the $15 million Wolfhound sensor will save this week in Afghanistan, but ask any parent whose son or daughter is serving in that region if their child’s life is worth the investment we have made fielding C-IED initiatives. If a Wolfhound sensor saves one life, the money was well spent.
We look forward to continuing the dialogue – we acknowledge the responsibility to be good stewards of the resources Congress provides us. We will continue to spend the assets we have to protect our troops and to defeat the enemy emplacing IEDs against them.
LTG Mike Oates
I can't believe this is LTG Oates.
If so, then LTG Oates, why was I told, by your Chief of Technology, that the most effective way to present my design was to "pass out brochures to our soldiers in Baghdad bars?"
I mentioned this statement to several military advisers and soldiers who had returned from these theaters, and they were totally flabbergasted. Reason? Because, bars don't exist in Baghdad, and if so, our soldiers would never go to them.
Why did the Senior Pentagon Official say, "JIEDDO changes its mind and direction every week?"
Each of my statements are true and I have documentation. Therefore, please answer my questions.
Let me add one more point about dogs:
Diesel fumes hinder the performance of bomb-sniffing dogs.
Of LTG Oates' response, its encouraging to see that you can account for $2.015 billion, but yet your group has spend has spent in excess of $19 billion.
I am not sure that Gen Oates should discuss this further in these letters, but it might be a good topic for the JIEDDO website. I am impressed that he listened and responded to these opinions. It shows that he is open to criticism.
I have to believe that the General is unaware of the cavalier behavior of some of his personnel when dealing with folks like Flabbergasted. While on active duty, I kind of felt like it was an institutional culture with them. I think they should require at least 30% of their grant funds go to first time applicants of different laboratories or companies. Leaps in discovery will only be made when you are open to new and sometimes unorthodox approaches.
Back to the science - I am not surprised that dogs are still the state of the art. Much research is needed to understand the extent of their capabilities. We should be supporting works like E. Ostrander's and K. Overall's. Still, IMHO JIEDDO should be working on the human interface as it is the current limiting factor.
Completely agree with paulcrosoft.
I'm really tired of this 'government waste' knee-jerk response people give when they hear something like this. Failure is an inevitable part of scientific research.
Trying to develop an IED detection device that isn't as fragile as a dog and that would save the lives of soldiers (and dogs), is a completely worthy goal. If they'd succeeded that would be a really great thing. Just cause they failed, doesn't mean it wasn't worth it to try.
Don't start calling it "government waste", until there's actual proof that the money was actually misspent or misappropriated. You end up sounding like Palin when you do that and nobody wants that.
Epic fail by the pentagon
Please review the document below:
GAO FAULTS EFFORT TO COUNTER ROADSIDE BOMBS
(By Megan Scully Congress Daily October 29, 2009)
House lawmakers from both parties on Thursday expressed frustration with the Pentagon office charged with developing ways to defeat roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, seizing on a GAO review that uncovered bureaucratic and administrative problems that threaten efforts to counter Improvised Explosive Devices.
In a report released on Thursday, GAO found that the Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization has taken steps to improve internal problems, but "several significant challenges" affect the Defense Department's ability to oversee the office.
For one thing, JIEDDO does not have a way to gauge the effectiveness of its counter-IED efforts, GAO said. Neither JIEDDO nor the military services have a comprehensive database outlining existing counter-IED efforts, limiting the Defense Department's ability to monitor the full range of initiatives.
The office, which began operations in early 2006, lacks the internal oversight capabilities necessary to assure Pentagon officials it is achieving its objectives, GAO said. The office does not have clear criteria to determine which counter-IED training initiatives deserve its financial support, GAO said.
If the issues are not resolved, GAO warned that the Defense Department could duplicate its efforts, fail to address gaps in capabilities and create problems in integrating various technologies.
"We think there's some things going on within the processes of government that may be interfering with our ability to" stop the prevalence of roadside bombs, said House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Vic Snyder, D-Ark., who presided over a hearing to review GAO's findings.
"We have got to be sure that everything is functioning as well as it can be," Snyder said. "That's how human beings get things done is to be as efficient as they can be."
In response to the GAO report, the investigative agency's fifth study of the office's activities, the JIEDDO director, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, said he found the reviews generally helpful.
But he added that data in the GAO report is six months old and said he has taken steps to improve many of the areas where investigators found problems. Metz also took issue with claims that his office is less than transparent.
"I have ... too many people who understand how important the IED problem is that are looking at us," Metz said during a break in the hearing. "There is no hidden initiative that goes unsupervised."
During the hearing, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the only member of Congress to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, questioned whether the Defense Department has put enough energy behind catching insurgents, particularly when they are planting IEDs.
"The buck has to stop with you because we don't have anybody else," he told Metz. "There is no other IED defeat organization in Washington or anywhere else in the U.S. government ... whose sole mission is to stop IEDs."
Seems the only difference is the Director has changed from Metz to Oates. Also, no mention of dogs.