A US Marine runs to safety as an improvised explosive device explodes in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009. (AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s counter-IED organization will shrink nearly 90 percent in the coming years from its peak strength in 2010 but expand its missions, according to US Defense Department documents.
In one of his final decisions as deputy defense secretary, Ashton Carter, who left the Pentagon on Wednesday, said the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) should sustain its ability to support US forces in Afghanistan and the evolving counter-IED requirements around the world.
The personnel cuts will come over the next four years, shrinking JIEDDO down to a “base capacity level” of about 400 people in 2017. At its peak in April 2010, the organization had more than 3,900 people.
In a Nov. 26 memo, Carter approved JIEDDO’s plans to reduce the organization to 975 people in the 2015 to 2016 time frame.
Today, there are nearly 2,200, David Small, an organization spokesman, said. The majority of the organization — 81 percent, or about a four-to-one ratio — is comprised of contractors. That contractor-to-government employee ratio will fall to about one-to-one in 2017.
JIEDDO budgets for capabilities and contractors determine the number of people needed, Small noted.
A JIEDDO concept of operations is due to the deputy secretary’s office by March 2014.
That plan should ensure JIEDDO “retain the capability to enable tactical responsiveness, is scaled to fiscal realities and provides flexibility to meet increased future requirements, if necessary,” Carter wrote.
In a September memo, Carter said JIEDDO should prepare itself “for and react to battlefield surprise in counter- terrorism, counterinsurgency, and other related mission areas to include counter-IED .”
DoD leadership has been debating the future of JIEDDO for more than a year. In September, Carter said the organization would shrink, and tasked JIEDDO Director Lt. Gen. John Johnson with submitting a 2015 budget plan that lays out drawdown plans.
For several months, the Pentagon has been working to reduce its headquarters billets across the military. This week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans to cut the Office of the Secretary of Defense by more than 200 people and cut spending by 20 percent over a five-year period.
The military services and combatant commands are also reducing spending levels by 20 percent over that same period.