Since January 2006, the Pentagon has spent more than $18 billion trying to stop insurgent bombs — funding everything from radio frequency jammers to electronic dragnets that hunt bomb makers’ phone calls. But while the military is good at shelling out cash for futuristic bomb stoppers, it’s not as adept at tracking where its money goes. That’s how it ends up spending over $100 million on no fewer than six different kinds of directed-energy weapons designed to fry the bombs from a safe distance. And that’s just the tally of the laser, microwave or radio-frequency blasters that are currently in development.
Those are the findings of a report from Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), released on Tuesday. The report considered the bomb squad, known within the military as JIEDDO — the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization — a sprawling, bureaucratic mess. JIEDDO can’t even keep track of all the different anti-bomb technologies it’s supposed to coordinate, resulting in wasteful duplication.
The cost? At least $104 million, as best as the GAO could determine — although it could be higher, since the Pentagon’s crappy bookkeeping makes it difficult to get an accurate tally. And the GAO total excludes any of the laser weapons JIEDDO previously funded, like a $30 million “lightning gun” that’s considered one of the bigger military technology flops of the last decade. Not to mention the parade of Humvee-mounted lasers and high-powered microwave generators backed by JIEDDO and its bureaucratic predecessor.
The current Pentagon budget cuts JIEDDO’s funding by $700 million. But another $2.4 billion remains. And that’s one part of the vast sum of money the Pentagon devotes to stopping these jury-rigged weapons. After reading this report, even legislators who want to boost defense spending might wonder how much of that largess is being spent wisely.
Article Title: The Pentagon Has 6 Bomb-Zapping Ray Guns (Which May Be 6 Too Many)Author: Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman
WIRED/ URL: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/02/jieddo-ray-guns/
Student Researcher: Rebecca Vazquez, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University