Dogs Still Beat Electronics when it comes to finding Bombs

January 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Trail Boss News

The most sophisticated detectors the Pentagon came up with tend to
locate only 50 percent of IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq; when soldiers
are accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs, this number goes up to 80
percent; the Pentagon now spends less money on IED detection and more
money on drones to find those planting IEDs, radio jammers to disrupt
the frequencies used to detonate the bombs, and lots of aerial sensors
to scan bomb-heavy areas

After six years and nearly $19 billion in spending, a Pentagon task
force assigned to create better ways to detect bombs has reached this
conclusion: The best bomb detector is a dog.

Spencer Ackerman writes that the Joint Improvised Explosive Device
Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO has been working on this problem for
years, but it is 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.

Dan Nosowitz writes that this made it even more embarrassing when the
director of the organization told a conference the other day that “Dogs
are the best detectors.” As it turns out, the most sophisticated
detectors JIEDDO could come up with tend to locate only 50 percent of
IEDs in Afghanistan and Iraq. When soldiers are accompanied by
bomb-sniffing dogs, this number goes up to 80 percent. That director,
Lieutenant General Michael Oates, said that his organization now focuses
on disrupting the use of IEDs, rather than flat-out detecting them,
because they have not made 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 disrupt the frequencies used to detonate
the bombs, and lots of aerial sensors to scan bomb-heavy areas. All this
is 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 (“Senate panel rejects Pentagon
counter-IED group $400 million emergency funding request,” 27 May 2010
HSNW-) – which, as Nosowitz points out, can train a whole lot of
bomb-sniffing dogs, or at least buy some sweet dog armor.

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