U.S. Representative C.W. Bill Young will use his position as chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense spending Thursday to ask a big question: "They've had a lot of money, why are our kids still getting blown up?"
Young was referring to the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, which has spent more than $20 billion on measures to protect against the biggest threat to American forces: homemade bombs.
Young admits it is a perplexing problem.
"Every time we learn something, [the enemies] create something else," he explained, "So it's really a challenge."
His biggest concern is that JIEDDO, which grew from a 12-man unit to more than 1,900 people, has become a bureaucracy that delays deployment of better defenses. Young attended a defense industry trade show in Clearwater Tuesday where at least two vendors showcased new products. Chris Jadick, a spokesman for Thermal Matrix, conceded the military should make sure tax dollars are spent wisely.
"We're constantly developing new technology faster than that testing procedure can be completed," Jadick said. "It puts the war fighter at a disadvantage because we have equipment and systems we could get out there today that can save lives, that's not being utilized."
A 2008 report from the General Accounting Office criticized the way JIEDDO kept track of its funding. In 2011, The Center for Public Integrity labeled JIEDDO "The Manhattan Project that bombed." JIEDDO's own website offers explanations of where some of the money went. A video touts the development of mine-resistant vehicles as "The largest acquisition program for the Department of Defense since World War II."
Another video explains new armament designed to protect the genitals of foot soldiers, including new "blast boxers" worn under fatigues, and heavier Kevlar armament worn outside like a fanny pack.
"It rolls out kind of like a diaper, tucks up under the belt to Velcro strap, two snaps on the side, very quickly employed," a narrator explains.
The military just started issuing the new protective gear this year.
But Congressman Young prefers preventative technology.
"There's got to be some way, and that's what I want to explore, some way to either defeat [IED's] or to locate where they are so we can avoid them," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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