Monday, July 16, 2007

Perspective: Improvising a defense

Left: A New Jersey mother sends boxes of 'Silly String' to troops in Iraq. Before entering a building, the troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground it means there are no trip wires connected to bombs. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

Leaf blowers, laser pointers, and speedboat hulls. Right now, they are the cutting edge in American military might.

Although the Pentagon has been a tireless advocate for high-tech superiority, the U.S. military is still struggling to defend soldiers in Iraq from roadside bombs and other low-tech improvisations by insurgents. So in response to this ever-evolving menace, the military is also trying to be more creative and less plodding in procuring the right battle gear.

The result? A lengthening list of unconventional weapons, including laser pointers warning Iraqi drivers to slow down before checkpoints and high-powered leaf blowers that can clear debris used to conceal explosives. "Everything we do is based on the enemy. And it's an adaptive, smart enemy," says Jerry Ferguson of the Army's Rapid Equipping Force, which aims to fast-track off-the-shelf equipment to the front lines. The unconventional items are the result of smart ideas that bubble up in the civilian sector. These ideas can often provide quick fixes for a brutal, fast-evolving battle zone -- in the case of Iraq, one that has claimed 3,609 lives.

Read the rest at MSNBC