After a dozen years of war and months before the final pullout from Afghanistan, the Pentagon is debating the fate of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, created to combat the roadside bombs that still are the leading killer of U.S. and allied troops.
JIEDDO has spent about $20 billion since its birth in 2006 studying the threat, developing and fielding systems to address it, building a new intelligence system to keep troops abreast of fast-changing enemy advances, and training forces on how best to protect themselves.
Now, the Pentagon must choose between retaining JIEDDO on a much smaller scale or folding its responsibilities into the services.
Giving the mission to the services is not the answer. Too many leaders, especially in the Army, want to turn away from costly counterinsurgency warfare and go back to preparing for more conventional conflicts. But IEDs will remain a threat, one that requires a joint infrastructure to ensure future readiness.
The Pentagon must keep JIEDDO independent and focused on defeating this threat that every potential adversary now sees for what it is: an ideal asymmetrical tool for combating sophisticated, casualty-averse forces.
Cheap to build and easy to use, IEDs inflict staggering casualties, destroy sophisticated and expensive vehicles, and require costly systems to defeat.
IEDs have spread worldwide, killing U.S. special operators in the Philippines, and are increasingly used by narco-traffickers to protect their coca fields.
America and its allies were unprepared for IEDs a dozen years ago. Breaking up JIEDDO now raises the risk of being unprepared again a few years later.