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 bombmakers’ 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.