New Bomb Squad Boss

By Jason Sherman / December 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates took command today of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, the Pentagon shop charged with focusing full-time on what the Defense Department's No. 2 official said is “the single most deadly threat facing our troops in the field today” -- roadside bombs.

Oates, previously commander of the Army's 10th Mountain Division (Light), replaced Lt. Gen Thomas Metz, who is retiring.

In a change of command ceremony at the Pentagon auditorium, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn noted that Oates' recent operational experience sharpen skills essential to fighting complex bureaucratic battles. Congressional investigators have questioned JIEDDO's financial management as recently as this October said JIEDDO and the military services need to improve coordination of their respective counter-IED efforts.

Not long ago, Gen. Oates served in southern Iraq -- one of the most politically charged places we’re deployed,” Lynn said, according to a transcript. “There, a Shi’a religious hierarchy and network of powerful tribes operate outside the government. At every turn, Gen. Oates had to navigate shifting alliances, uncover hidden agendas, and strike delicate political arrangements.

“We believe that was excellent training for taking the command of JIEDDO,” Lynn said.

Ba dum dum, tsh.

Seriously, the deputy defense secretary said that in Afghanistan, only 10 percent of roadside bomb attacks manage to wound or kill U.S. forces.

“Yet this success rate is not good enough,” he said, according to the transcript

In Afghanistan, we are up against a determined and clever foe who mastered the use of this deadly technology long before our forces set foot in the mountains of the Hindu-Kush.

Recent translations of Soviet General Staff studies reveal that the Soviets lost nearly 2,000 soldiers and 1,200 vehicles to IEDs during their nine-year Soviet-Afghan war.

That IEDs have defeated another technologically advanced military, in the very same place we fight now, only adds to the urgency of our mission.

And IEDs have implications far beyond the battlefields we fight on today. In the past month, terrorists have detonated improvised explosive devices on five continents. Russia, Spain, and the UK have all seen deadly IED-attacks.