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Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA)

Location: Washington, DC, USAJIDA


The Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA), born from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO), was established on 11 March 2015 to support counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and other related mission areas including counter-IED.

JIEDDO was initially established in the wake of the increased use of IEDs targeting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its mission was to “focus (lead, advocate, coordinate) all Department of Defense actions in support of the Combatant Commanders’ and their respective Joint Task Forces’ efforts to defeat IEDs as weapons of strategic influence.” It created the ‘three pillars’ in counter-IED, which continue to be used in much of the rhetoric about countering IEDs today.

  1. Attack the Network

The first pillar aims at working against those who enable IED attacks ‘before the bang.’ This includes operations against those networks who finance groups using IEDs, bomb-makers, those training people in IED tactics, and those providing supporting infrastructure to bomb-makers. JIEDDO provided “intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, information operations, counter-bombing targeting, biometrics, and weapons technical intelligence,” to attack these networks. Once such measure taken was the creation of the Counter-IED Operations / Intelligence Center, which was established in August 2006. The Center coordinated more than 30 government and intelligence agencies, and supported combat commanders with analytical products. The Center has been disassembled with the creation of JIDA, but its operations have been aligned under the JIDA Deputy Director of Operations.

  1. Defeat the Device

The second pillar targets the IED itself, developing the counter-IED capacity of troops so that IEDs can be detected and neutralised more safely. This pillar focuses on “providing defence technologies” in order that IEDs may be detected and defused prior to detonation, or that the effects of their detonation may be mitigated. Principally this is done through requests for proposals, which are posted to private industry by JIDA. Some of JIDA’s counter-IED capacities include:

  • Countering threat-networks
  • IED detection
  • Neutralising IEDs
  • Limiting homemade explosives
  • Information integration and fusion to increase situational awareness
  • Weapons technical intelligence
  • Counter-IED training
  1. Train the Force

This pillar involves training those who are involved in countering IEDs. Principally, this pillar has resulted in the establishment of centres of excellence across the US, in order that US forces are trained as fully as possible in countering this terrible weapon. The main centre, the Joint Center of Excellence (JCOE) was established in April 2006, under JIEDDO, and “provides support to joint and service institutions and assists with developing counter-IED doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures.” In addition to the JCOE, there are four subordinate centres of excellence. The Army Center of Excellence at the National Training Center supports the US Army with the training and integration of new C-IED equipment into pre-deployment training. The Marine detachment, located in California, supports US Marines pre-deployment. The US Air Force Center of Excellence, in Lackland, Texas, has “joint subject-matter experts in electronic warfare intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and military working dogs. Finally, the US Navy Center of Excellence, in Indian Head, Maryland, has expertise in counter-radio-controlled IED electronic warfare, robotics, homemade explosives, and EOD. These Centers of Excellence help to train those involved in countering IEDs, and help the armed forces to integrate new technologies into their counter-IED strategies.

JIDA is the latest development in the US’ attempts to counter the proliferation and use of IEDs, and while the key pillars of JIEDDO remain the same, it has been streamlined and adapted to face the developing threat. JIEDDO itself traces its origins back to the US Army’s Counter-IED Task Force, which was established in 2003 in response to the IED threat at the outset of the Iraq war. It was transformed in 2004 to a joint-IED task force reporting directly to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, and was finally made into a permanent organisation on 14 Feb 2000.

JIEDDO was transformed into JIDA, and with the transformation came an 85% budget cut and a 60% reduction in staff. The Agency, in its new form, does not simply focus on explosive devices. Julie Bentz, JIDA’s acting director said in August 2015: “I would call an improvised threat any adaption of available technologies, tactics, techniques and procedures that counter our technical overmatch. The idea [is] that these are technologies that are abundantly cheap [and] easily transformed; all you need is available and expendable manpower to make it lethal. Necessity is the mother of invention and they’re going to use any and all technologies to get in between our capabilities.” Such technology could including actions such as compromising tunnels and using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out attacks. JIDA will work with organisations such as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as coalition forces, partner nations and other US agencies. The agency recognises the need to adapt if IEDs are truly to be countered, with the Latin inscription reading: “APTO AUT MORIOR,” which means “I must adapt or I will die.”

JIEDDO was also part of the effort in Iraq to defeat Islamic State militants. They provided training to Iraqi Security Forces in C-IED. Assistance in these efforts was provided throughout Iraq and Afghanistan in the decade previous, with work including analyzing roadside bomb attacks and leading efforts to build technology to find and defuse these explosive devices.

The technology JIEDDO is using to find IEDs includes:

  • Handheld Detectors: from metal detectors to ground penetrating radar. It has also deployed body-worn sensors that allow a soldier to keep his head up and now looking at the ground. JIEDDO is using new automated training equipment to make sure a soldier uses the proper bomb sweeping techniques. This will speed up training and increase the number of soldiers trained, officials said.
  • Vehicle Mounted Sensors: JIEDDO has fielded larger versions of the handheld detectors that can be mounted on the front of virtually any military vehicle. It is now working to combine different vehicle sensors into a single system.
  • Drones and Robots: These small drones and have special cameras that can see at night and hot spots on the ground that could be a bomb. These lightweight drones and robots can fit in a backpack and the robots can climb stairs.
  • Video Game-Like Trainers: JIEDDO is developing a training system akin to popular video games. The life-like virtual trainers simulate ground patrols where a soldier would need to use different types detectors or tools to find IEDs buried in the road.

This profile is part of AOAV’s investigation into counter-IED (C-IED) actors around the globe. To see the list of all C-IED actors recorded by AOAV, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE). To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here.