WASHINGTON: When the Army’s Improvised Explosives Device – Defeat division officially became the “ANTS” division last June, some wondered what prompted the change and how it would affect its mission.
To these questions Col. Dick A. Larry, chief of the Adaptive Networks, Threats and Solutions division, responds, “The IED is not a stand-alone threat. Worldwide enemy networks that create and employ IEDs use a full spectrum of operations that effectively augment the IED. We (ANTS) simply broadened our focus to effectively counter current and emerging threats from all angles.
“Our goal,” Larry said, “is to get beyond the IED and look at root causes and human networks. Human networks – criminal, terrorist, financial, cultural, etc. – are the keys to countering asymmetric threats. If we affect the networks, we can defeat emergent threats.”
The Adaptive Networks, Threats and Solutions division, or ANTS, is a component organization of the Army Asymmetric Warfare Office.
“The ANTS division’s mission is not limited to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Col. Larry said. “We are involved in all asymmetric and irregular warfare efforts wherever they occur.”
The division is multifaceted. For example, it serves as the Department of the Army’s proponent for emerging counter-IED programs that must be rapidly incorporated into the Army. In this capacity the division assesses some 30 counter-IED initiatives a month and ensures initiatives meet Army requirements before receiving Army endorsement.
The ANTS division also leads coordination efforts for complex Army requirements such as the $1.5 billion Base Expeditionary Targeting Surveillance Systems-Combined, or BETSS-C system, which includes a ground intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability known as Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment – or RAID – towers.
“The towers are eight to 10 stories high and are studded with cameras, electro-optical/infrared sensors and radars,” Larry said. “The equipment can transmit real-time data, images and video via 3-D display to Army Soldiers and leaders many kilometers away.”
Once an enemy is detected, BETSS-C users can select a variety of countermeasures to include air or field artillery strikes.
Finally, ANTS leads and manages an Explosives Ordnance Disposal force tailored to Army-specific concerns. The force identifies, neutralizes, and disposes of all non-nuclear, explosives-based asymmetric and strategic weapons of influence.
ANTS’ organizational structure may be diverse, but its vision is focused, Larry said. “We want to make sure people understand that, like Army, ANTS takes a holistic approach against our enemies’ tactics, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Larry said. “Three of our top concerns at the moment are training the troops, attacking the IED network and defeating the IED.”
In training the force, Army leaders have emphasized targeting those who build, fund or emplace IEDs and those who recruit enemies against the U.S. Additionally, ANTS works with Army commands, combat training centers, the Center for Army Lessons Learned and other agencies to ensure Soldiers have the most up-to-date training prior to and during deployment.
Attacking the network means “to prevent IED placement by attacking enemy vulnerabilities at multiple points in the IED system,” Larry said. ANTS’ involvement with a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms is a force multiplier that improves warfighter situational awareness and gives battalion commanders eyes across the horizon.
While ANTS does not fund ISR platforms, it does synchronize and integrate solutions into the Army Campaign Plan and the Planning, Programming and Budget Execution System. It does this by coordinating programming, transition and sustainment of Army IED-Defeat and asymmetric warfare initiatives.
Further, ANTS partners with the Joint IED Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO, and its Joint Center of Excellence at Fort Irwin, Calif. It also works with other combat training centers in the development of current improvised explosive device-defeat tactics, techniques and procedures.
Often, those curious about the ANTS division’s mission ask about similarities between it and JIEDDO.
The early success of the Army IED Task Force resulted in its transformation into what is now JIEDDO. JIEDDO’s focus is on all DoD actions and efforts to defeat IEDs, while ANTS spearheads the Army’s contributions to JIEDDO’s efforts and champions the Army’s service-specific IED-Defeat activities.
“The stand-up of the joint organization resulted in a gap in Army-specific counter-IED efforts,” Larry said. ANTS, he explained, fills the gap through various initiatives and through partnerships with JIEDDO and Army’s Electronic Warfare and Force Protection divisions.
“But,” he continued, “we all share a common goal – to make Soldiers safer and more effective in asymmetric warfare-type environments.”