Mason Receives $7 Million Contract for Research and Development to Counter IEDs

Posted: April 8, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Edgerly

Mason has been awarded a contract — valued at more than $7 million if fully funded over three years — by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) for research and development to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). JIEDDO is a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The project will be housed in the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering’s Center of Excellence in Command, Control, Communications, Computing and Intelligence (C4I). The project will use modeling techniques to identify practical ways to defeat IEDs as a weapon of strategic influence.

Kathryn Laskey
Kathryn Laskey
Photo courtesy of Kathryn Laskey

Mason professors of systems engineering and operations research Kathryn Laskey and Andrew Loerch will lead the project. They will analyze and model initiatives to effectively counteract the IED problem in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world, as well as try to understand how insurgency will evolve.

Andrew Loerch
Andrew Loerch
Photo courtesy of Andrew Loerch

Pentagon data show that approximately 70 percent of combat deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, the most common IED, making them the number one killer of U.S. troops there. U.S. Central Command indicates that the number of deaths from roadside bombs in Iraq has fallen, but usage of the devices in Afghanistan is rising. IEDs are expected to be the weapon of choice for insurgents for many years to come.

“When you talk about IEDs, you think about a bomb sitting on the side of the road, but it really is more extensive than that. IEDs also include vehicle-borne IEDs and personnel-borne IEDs, suicide car bombs or a suicide bomber,” says Loerch.

“It’s not just about the bomb buried or lying next to the road. The planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and the London and Madrid train bombings are also examples of IEDs. Our task is to find a way to adapt to and mitigate a constantly evolving threat.”

Mason is collaborating with researchers from other organizations working with JIEDDO on the IED problem. The research seeks to understand the interaction between actions taken by coalition forces and the behavior of the IED threat. Understanding this interaction is important in evaluating the contribution of JIEDDO-funded initiatives in the counter-IED fight.

Examples of some of these initiatives include using equipment that can jam an IED detonator (such as a garage door opener), IED detection devices (radar), and improved methods for safely dismantling IEDs. Other initiatives involve putting people in position to analyze data and interacting with local populations to establish trust and communication.

“One of the biggest modeling challenges is that the threat adapts, and there is an extensive assortment of IEDs. Every time you think you’ve got them all covered, the insurgents come up with a new strategy because they are trying to be inventive. Everything we do to try to stop them, they seem to figure out a way to get around it,” says Laskey.

“Our hope is that our models, or at least the methods we come up with for dealing with IEDs, will be robust in most situations that would arise in the future — including IEDs in the U.S. and the rest of the world.”

The contract also contains options which, if exercised, would bring the total value of the contract to almost $10.4 million. Work is expected to be completed in January 2012.

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