03 May 2011

A Behemoth In A Blizzard Of Cash

The Center For Public Integrity recently posted a great article about the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). Well, maybe great is the wrong word to describe a story about how we've failed so miserably. I probably meant to say it's an interesting, insightful story.

Here's a short excerpt from the first part of the article:
The launch of JIEDDO eventually turned what had been a 12-person Army anti-homemade bomb task force into a 1,900 person behemoth with nearly $21 billion to spend.

Yet after five years of work, hundreds of projects, and a blizzard of cash paid to some of America’s biggest defense contractors, JIEDDO has not found a high-tech way to detect or defeat these so-called Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from a safe distance.
What's striking to me is the apparent incredulity over JIEDDO's failure, despite being enormous and having "a blizzard of cash" to spend and despite it's focus on "high tech." And I don't mean the author's surprise - I'm talking about the reaction of government people who can't seem to understand why throwing buckets of money at the problem and building a "behemoth" organization didn't work out.

Um, anyone ever look at any data on successful programs? There's a pretty compelling trail of examples showing that simple, low-cost, rapidly-fielded systems tend to outperform the multi-billion-dollar products that take decades to produce.

My point? Nobody should be surprised when a behemoth in a blizzard of cash fails to show results.

1 comment:

Alan Kotok said...


The Science Business blog has reported on two projects involving IEDs. Sandia National Lab has been working on a water-based device to disarm IEDs ... http://sciencebusiness.technewslit.com/?p=1029

And grad students at EPFL -- Switzerland's MIT -- developed remote IED detection technology ... http://sciencebusiness.technewslit.com/?p=3177