Defense transformation exec pushes for energy weapons plan

The director of the Defense Department's Office of Force Transformation sees a future for energy weapons.

At a Feb. 26 hearing of the House Armed Service Committee's Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski advocated the establishment of a road map to investigate the possibilities of developing directed energy weapons. Such weapons send bursts in the form of heat, electricity, sound and other energies, instead of projectiles such as bullets or shells.

Directed energy weapons have the potential to be more precise than projectile weapons, and can offer nonlethal capabilities that projectile ones don't.

Cebrowski said that directed energy weapons could "dramatically change the character of war," and would offer not just one order of magnitude change, but several orders.

"We need to be coordinated, but not winnowed," he said. "We need the diversity of a multiservice approach. I expect the department will mandate a joint directed energy road map."

Cebrowski also talked about the possibilities of redirected energy, which would serve as a shield against incoming ballistic rounds in the form of missiles and artillery. He said an in-orbit relay system could be developed so energy weapons could fire over the horizon.

"This is very, very powerful work," he said. "We think that this relay system for energy to allow its broad use could be the fulcrum to establish the joint capabilities moving forward."

Cebrowski has also long advocated the use of nonlethal weapons for such missions as nation-building, peacekeeping or evacuating noncombatants from a potentially hostile situation.

"We can't have our soldiers confronted with the binary decision of either applying lethal force or accepting unacceptable risk," he said.

During the subcommittee hearing, senior Defense officials also addressed "regrets" of the past in terms of weapons and systems development, and urged improving existing systems.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) asked a panel comprised of top transformation leaders from the four armed services, Joint Forces Command and DOD to identify their regrets.

"Throughout history, powers have had issues of regret, some change that they are unable to make," Thornberry said. "It seems what you're talking about here is that there are some things we'd better pay attention to or one day we're going to look back and regret not having paid attention to them."

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