Getting things done at the Pentagon…
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has his eye on a specialized piece of equipment for breaking down communications barriers over at the Pentagon.
He told the House Armed Services Committee about it Wednesday while making his budget pitch.
It’s a blowtorch.
Asked whether the task force charged with defeating improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan was doing its job, Gates told lawmakers it was performing well.
Improvised explosives, used for roadside bombings and other attacks, have killed more than 600 coalition troops since 2001, according to icasualties.org, which tracks combat deaths in Afghanistan.
While IEDs accounted for only 16 percent of fatalities in 2002, their proportion has grown substantially. They represented 61 percent of deaths last year and 71 percent so far this year.
The task force dealing with improvised explosives has received some $17.2 billion since its inception and has a staff of 4,800.
Gates said production for some equipment to deal with the devices was “maxed out.”
He said efforts were under way to acquire other items as quickly as possible and send them to Afghanistan.
One idea is to warehouse equipment at the battalion level so troops going into the field can pick what is appropriate for any given day.
The problem, Gates said, has been with integrating the different approaches toward dealing with improvised explosives.
That’s where the blowtorch comes in.
He said when the task force completes its work, the Pentagon will need a senior official “applying a blowtorch to this issue” to ensure the different parts are talking to each other and equipment flows to Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before a House panel Wednesday)