Interview with COL Colonel José Antonio Cruz Moro, Director, C-IED Center of Excellence, Spain

Could you describe the NATO C-IED COE’s main activities?

The C-IED COE's main activities are correspondent to those included in a generic way as priorities of NATO for its accredited Centers of Excellence. This includes Doctrine and Concept Development, Research and Development and Technology Projects, Training and exercises, Support to Collaborative and cooperative security, and INFO Sharing, Analysis and LLs. Those generic lines are translated in operative activities in a yearly work program where the C-IED COE Contributing Nations clearly define their common or particular priorities. All of them are related to C-IED activities with different timeframes and costs. They are mainly focused on attacking terrorists or insurgent networks that use IEDs and pose a real threat to lives in Areas of Operations where allied forces are, or could be, deployed.

What would you say are the biggest challenges ahead of us in countering IEDs?

It is difficult to go into specifics when describing the C-IED conceptual framework to a non-technical audience. However, we can mention that the main aspect of the C-IED activity is an inherently offensive and pro-active approach to reduce both the threat that IEDs represent and the impact of these IEDs when used. It is mainly integration of INTEL and OPS and derived offensive operations. That being said, and according to my personal opinion, one of the main issues encountered when speaking about IEDs is the tendency people have to mix them with EOD. Both are necessary and very closely related, but their scope of activities and their diversity are completely different. C-IED is a staff activity to coordinate several enablers and actions, (from Strategic to Tactical Levels), where EOD is one of those enablers, (a very important one), as SIGINT, ISTAR, HUMINT, COMMINT, Technical Exploitation or Social Networks Analysis, (SNA), are, to mention some examples.

Furthermore, and it is once again a personal opinion, although the reduction of activities in Afghanistan or Iraq has led the figures of casualties to decrease, a mindset of complacence as "well done, C-IED is not necessary anymore" has emerged. IEDs will be present in future irregular warfare scenarios, and that wrong mindset will force Nations to begin from zero. Nations with troops deployed in IED scenarios or SAHEL perfectly know the importance of the points I have made in these first two bullet-points.

Finally, to fight an insurgent or terrorist network using IEDs, it is crucial to collect as much data as possible about this network and to then make an INTEL analysis of this data. Only then can we provide enough information to the teams fighting these networks. The information is not always available or shared by those that have it. If available it is not always correctly analyzed, and if analyzed not always used. If used, self-imposed legal constraints do not always permit to carry out some operations. "Paralysis due to analysis" is a real burden to carry out follow-on operations where any piece of INFO can provide important outcomes against those using IEDs. It needs extra efforts in Staff, INTEL, Planning and Targeting elements with high demands of personnel and resources. The ratio results/costs is always above the ratio security/cost. Who could provide a quantitative figure to "security"?

As insurgents and terrorist are coming up with more sophisticated IED-devices, how do you ensure that operational and technical C-IEDs are maintained, and up-to-par or aligned with the emerging threats?

Well, the aforementioned security concept sometimes increases its costs because the security problem has not been deeply analyzed and defined. I could provide you with some specific examples; Is 5G a real emerging tool for using IEDs? - Yes, it is a really valuable communication tool, but could it be used in open fields when specific short distances among relays are necessary? And what about in urban areas where providers could create specific limitations? When a UAV carries an IED immediately, it is considered an IED issue? - No, it is a C-UAV issue with the specific added load that it is an IED. That being said, maybe the most important element to align to the technical resources of the threat is the technical exploitation activities. In addition, to combat the networks that use IEDs, the analysis of their Technics, Tactics, and Procedures and a correct Lessons Learned process are the most important tools to anticipate the actions of those networks.

It is crucial that the people operating the C-IED equipment are appropriately trained. Are there any shortcomings in the current training programs you provide?

I have to point out that the role of C-IED COE is not to train people in the use of specific basic or tactical equipment. Keep In mind that C-IED at a tactical level in NATO is a National responsibility. In C-IED COE, we train in some SNA programs and software and in some document exploitation technics, materials, and software to support Nations, enabling them to increase/implement their capabilities. Our courses are intended to train Staffs and mainly Train the Trainers oriented. The core part of our courses is designed to support the decision-making processes in C-IED organizational structures, C-IED operations planning, and human targeting.

How does the C-IED COE cooperate with industry? What opportunities does the COE offer to the private sector?

There is a bi-yearly periodic event in C-IED COE, the C-IED Technological Workshop, that is openly publicized, but opportunities are never constrained by specific moments. Technological innovations are always welcomed, some of them sponsored by NATO and others by contributing nations. Projects such as PRINSE or BLADE for passive protection or CIUSAT or FTTN for analysis of threat networks are examples of those opportunities out of the cycle. The unique condition is that they have to be C-IED, not EOD projects. For EOD projects, there is an accredited Centre of Excellence which work is praiseworthy and with whom we have an excellent relationship with.

Sharing knowledge is necessary, and unlike regions or states, knowledge has no boundaries.

Who are the C-IED CoE’s main international partners? How important is international cooperation for you? What are the current challenges hindering multinational partnerships?

One of the main characteristics of any IMO (International Military Organization) is its freedom to act in order to carry out its tasks. The C-IED COE Steering Committee provides the Director authority to a very high degree (with some limits established by the SC) to contact or establish initiatives to solve the IED problem and increase the C-IED capabilities of partners and IOs. That lets us avoid loss of opportunities when our SMEs detect a gap in C-IED capabilities, or C-IED Methods, or a potential technological initiative.

Our collaborations with NATO ACT and IMS as main requestors, EDA, European Union, UN, NATO partners, and technology companies are frequent without distinction in the solutions or support provided. International cooperation is a fundamental condition because INFO about types of IEDs and TTPs of those that use them have no borders. Sharing knowledge is necessary, and unlike regions or states, knowledge has no boundaries.

I would not use the term "hindering" but maybe an additional burden for operating appears when we talk about INFO sharing. INFO/INTEL works better if we use "exchange" instead "share". The "quid pro quo" offers more possibilities for providing more quality assessments. To go back to a previous point I made about the "first" problem with C-IED in relation to its conceptual framework, and how this has a pessimistic view on C-IED capabilities at different rates (or pace). This is often the case when organizations and nations in dire need are asking for support. Still, they do not know what they really need. Sometimes they do an analysis, but not a proper C-IED analysis. It is a proper " Catch-22". C-IED analysis cannot be rushed, as the analysis requires a lot of explanations as well various conversations. However, at the same time the end-user/client is often in a hurry to get the solutions for their problems.

As a Director, what do you find most rewarding in your job?

Without any question: to know that an organization has used an assessment or report from C-IED CoE, deployed troops, or a single person to increase their security against IEDs.

The C-IED CoE is the official partner of the CBRNe Society for the upcoming NCT eXplosive Europe. What are you most looking forward to at the event?

To find opportunities to increase persons´ security in relation to the IED threats, never mind what forum it could be. NCT eXplosive Europe provides us with the opportunity to identify potential future threat initiatives where, perhaps, C-IED as a discipline could play a relevant role.

Come listen to COL Cruz Moro during the NCT eXplosive Europe 2021 conference on June 8-10, at the Joint NBC Defense School in Rieti, Italy!

COL Cruz Moro was appointed as C-IED COE Director in June 2018. He previously commanded the AtN Branch of the COE for more than 3 years (2010-2013). His military education includes Mechanized and Armored Officer Course, Combat Supplies Officer Course, Military Physical Education Teacher Officer Course, Hand to Hand Combat Course, Inter-Services Operations Course, Peace Keeping Missions Observer Course, General Staff Officer Course, National Administration Laws Course, Operational Planning Process Course, NATO European Security Cooperation Course and European Security Policy Course. He has commanded different Infantry Units from platoon to Brigade Level, including Mechanized units and Light Infantry units as Spanish Legion. From February 2018 to August 2018 was appointed as NTCB-I C-IED Senior Advisor. (NATO Training and Capacity Building in Iraq).