Murkowski on IED Protection For Troops: “We Must Do Better”

As Soldiers Use Paintbrushes and Knives, Senator Asks Army Official For Improvements

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today questioned the United States Army Chief of Staff how the Army can better protect soldiers from the gruesome and deadly weapon-of-choice in Afghanistan, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED).  “We’ve seen 21st technology robotic devices sent to Mars, we’ve seen them deployed thousands of feet underwater,” said Murkowski. “Why can’t we get the technology right to protect our men and women in uniform?”

Senator Murkowski posed this question and others at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing this morning, attended by both U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Secretary of the Army John McHugh. In the wake of Monday’s news of three Alaskan Army deaths due to IEDs, the issue of better protection tools was a key focus of the discussion.

“We’re living in an age of technological prowess, tablets and smart phones, yet one Alaskan ordinance officer recently told me his unit was using a paintbrush and knife to handle IEDs. We must do better,” said Murkowski. “I know the Army’s slogan is ‘Army of One,’ but we don’t want our soldiers to feel like they’re being sent into harm’s way alone, without every advantage we can provide them.”

General Dempsey informed Senator Murkowski that the Army is pursuing robotic technology aggressively, in order to give troops on the ground the best available tools to fight IEDs.

During questioning, Senator Murkowski also encouraged General Dempsey to make more extensive use of Alaska training facilities like the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) to prepare troops for war in Southwest Asia – given the fact Alaska’s terrain and weather conditions are similar to those found in Afghanistan.  Dempsey agreed and stated that he is excited about making better use of the Last Frontier.