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 Defense Dept. to Host Industry Conference Targeting 'Improvised Explosive Devices' 

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 Sandra I. Erwin

 

The Defense Department will be hosting an industry conference January 24 and 25 where contractors will be asked to offer suggestions for how to defeat roadside bomb attacks.

Despite its technological prowess when it comes to weapon systems, the Pentagon has yet to come up with an effective solution to curb the rising casualty toll in Iraq resulting from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

The upcoming "Joint IED Defeat Conference," to take place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, in Washington, D.C., is intended to attract "solution providers," said Iak Thomas, one of the organizers of the event. Unlike last year's IED industry conference, this one will be unclassified, in order to draw a broader range of participants, Thomas said. All participants, he said, must register online at www.ndia.org.

According to a draft program agenda, officials from the Defense Department's IED task force will provide a "worldwide overview" of the IED threat, and will explain the "operational context" in which IEDs are employed and targeted against U.S. troops.

To solicit bids from contractors, the Defense Department is expected to release a "broad area announcement" in the coming weeks, the details of which are not yet available and may be discussed at the conference.

Army Lt. Col. Wade Yost, a member of the IED task force, said there are no specific eligibility requirements for participating in the workshop, although the second day of the conference will cover classified topics and will be restricted to U.S. contractors with security clearances.

"Obviously if we get into classification issues on particular solutions, certain level of clearances will be a must," Yost said.

No specific budget figures have yet been allocated for future contract awards, Yost said. "We are not prepared to talk funding availability at this time . There is a certain threshold we are dealing with that will depend on the final list of capability gaps yet to be codified."

The IED task force, led by Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, had a nearly $1 billion budget last year.

"Contracts will be awarded as early as a month after the vetting of the concept or as long as it takes to run a broad area announcement," Yost said. "We can not give a precise time table."

Many anti-IED technologies already have been tested, and so far, have not made any significant dents in the problem. IEDs can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury-rigged artillery shells. Most are detonated by cell phone. Lately, insurgents have launched attacks with much more sophisticated "shaped charge" munitions, specifically designed to penetrate armor.

"We are potentially seeking the full range of possibilities," said Yost. "We believe most off-the-shelf techs have already been vetted but are open to review as necessary. For those needing development, we will work on a case-by-case basis, we are developing a path forward for near term objectives as well as longer term initiatives."

At least 600 contractors are expected to attend the January conference.

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