The versatility of the IED has, in general, resulted in a tendency to equip clearance personnel with as much equipment and technology as is available. In concept, enabling them to respond to any potential IED construct or emplacement technique is well-intentioned, but more often than not, more gear means cumbersome, overburdened units with limited ability to apply the technology they need. Overburdening units degrades performance and can result in broader strategic impacts to how clearance assets are applied.
While clearance leaders look to incorporate newer, more sophisticated tech onto their personnel and vehicles, IED makers conversely trend toward low-tech, quick-to-deploy, and easily adaptable device emplacement applied strategically within a specific context. This versatility of the IED reduces the effectiveness of responding with an all-purpose solution. Though many look to provide a “swiss army knife solution,” as peripheral attachments are added cumulatively, the burden of managing that equipment can restrict the mission itself. Often, a more effective concept is a “drill bit” solution: employing a solid, forward-compatible platform capable of incorporating unique attachments for specific tasks. This forces leaders to plan thoroughly and anticipate threat evolutions while reducing operators’ task overload. Furthermore, it also limits the physical growth of clearance platforms, which can often become too overloaded to traverse the routes of the lighter units for whom they are clearing. When resources restrict a unit’s value in this way, resource application should be reevaluated.
Platforms over-laden with technology can offer a false sense of preparedness. While operators might feel ready for anything, trying to effectively apply all of the resources on the same platform can end up being cumbersome for the operators. While optics and sensors enhance visibility, they can reduce broader situational awareness, when an operator spends hours staring at monitors instead of observing environmental conditions.
However, even platforms with multiple operators and shared tasks can be asked to do too much. The amount of sustained concentration required for (and stress resulting from) executing focused detection for hours by lead vehicles can become compounded if those same personnel are then responsible for engagement with suspected threats during the interrogation phase of a mission. By sharing tasks within, and amongst platforms, personnel are afforded valuable breaks that further enhance their ability to apply specific technologies for their designated task.
While putting fewer people with more capabilities in blast-prone vehicles seems intuitive, it often means reducing an operator's ability to manage all of tasks, thus decreasing his ability to respond to threats. Essentially, this method prioritizes preparing for hypothetical threats and reducing their effect in a strike instead of increasing an operator's ability to prevent a strike. The nature of the IED threat demands an adaptable, versatile solutions and coordinated application of those solutions. Tunnel vision created by a sense of overconfidence in technology often hinders that adaptability or reduces a perceived need for coordinated application. Soldiers and the units they support can become accustomed to technological enhancement, disregarding tactical awareness and contextual understanding.
Technology Applied Contextually
Advanced technology applied to route clearance operations should not reduce operator creativity or adaptability. Sophisticated technology, employed by adaptable and creative operators, in an appropriate tactical context (much in the way that effective IEDs are employed) can exponentially enhance a route clearance element’s effectiveness. However, top-down mandates for application of all resources on all missions cause units to become too reliant on technology meant to enhance rather than replace ingenuity. When soldiers rely too heavily on specific technological methods, complacency follows.