Despite great power competition shifting the U.S. military's gaze from counterterrorism to peer adversaries such as Russia and China, there will still be a need to maintain and modernize its explosive ordnance disposal technology, officials have said.
EOD operators conduct some of the military's most dangerous jobs defuzing and neutralizing bombs. The importance of their work reached a peak during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when military service members faced widespread threats from the easily manufactured but deadly improvised explosive devices.
However, their mission will only grow as the United States faces an array of threats from countries and non-state actors around the globe, said Army Lt. Gen. Reynold Hoover, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command.
"The strategic environment we find ourselves in today is evolving from what it had been over the past few decades," he said. "While counterinsurgency operations are important in some of our areas of responsibility, we can't afford to solely focus on that. We can't afford to make the assumption that we will always be fighting insurgents with inferior technology and equipment."
The United States must balance its explosive ordnance disposal capabilities to address the long-term strategic competition it faces with Russia and China, he noted during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association's recent Global EOD Symposium and Exhibition in Bethesda, Maryland.
"These competitors, along with North Korea, Iran and terrorist organizations are developing weapons and tactics we haven't even seen before," he said. These adversaries often operate in the "gray zone," where their aggressive and coercive efforts remain below the level of conventional armed conflict, he noted.
"This gray zone... represents challenges and opportunities for our EOD forces that will require strong government and industry cooperation, active academic research and development, and close collaboration between military and civilian law enforcement, the intelligence community and military services to stay ahead of our competition," he said.
Government and industry will need to develop innovative technologies that can provide U.S. forces with the capability to act decisively when faced with a variety of hazards, from IEDs to biological agents to improvised nuclear devices, Hoover said.
But the military can't stop there, he added. It must also work to open the explosive ordnance disposal-mission...