Heinrich Headlines National Directed Energy Summit

During keynote address at 2017 Directed Energy Summit, Senator Heinrich highlighted New Mexico’s leadership in the technology and called for establishment of a Directed Energy Weapon System Demonstration Fund

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and founder of the first ever Congressional Directed Energy Caucus, delivered a keynote address at the Directed Energy Summit in Washington, D.C. highlighting his commitment to invest in directed energy technology.

In his remarks, Senator Heinrich addressed the importance of directed energy, stating, “The added value of directed energy weapon systems can no longer be ignored. Cost-effectiveness, lethality, infinite magazine capacity, and precision targeting are all attributes that the military seeks and needs in its weapon systems.”

Senator Heinrich also called for the establishment of a Directed Energy Weapon System Demonstration Fund that would be used exclusively for high energy laser and high power microwave prototyping and demonstrations to develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures—or TTPs—for these weapon systems.

Senator Heinrich has led efforts to transition directed energy weapon systems, developed by industry, national labs, and research facilities, to programs that help the United States and our allies maintain military superiority. 

Last year, Senator Heinrich announced a $10 million investment in directed energy development in New Mexico. A $4.8 million award from the U.S Air Force went to Raytheon Ktech, which employs about 170 people in Albuquerque, to continue the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile (CHAMP) for use aboard the Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM). Additionally, Sandia National Laboratories received $1.4 million and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) received $3.8 million for further technology development.

Senator Heinrich emphasized in his remarks that, “Directed energy weapons systems will not replace kinetic weapon systems, nor are they an all-purpose solution to every warfighting scenario out there. But there are specific scenarios today where directed energy weapon systems can, and should, provide our military with tactical and strategic advantages.”

Senator Heinrich helped establish a new $300 million initiative in the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to advance the nation’s directed energy weapons technologies. He also introduced legislation in 2016 to provide rapid acquisition authorities to the Department of Defense for directed energy weapon systems.

Most recently, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, on January 23, 2017, his first day as the head of the Pentagon, urging him and the Department of Defense to provide sufficient resources to accelerate the development of next generation weapon systems – specifically directed energy— toward acquisition programs of record.

Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Thank you for the opportunity to welcome you to the third annual Directed Energy Summit. As a young engineer, I started my career in New Mexico working on directed energy technology at what is now the Air Force Research Laboratory. So, I am passionate about this subject.

Last year, my remarks focused on the fact that we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good in developing directed energy weapon systems.

This year, I want to dive even deeper into that notion.

Too often, people outside of this room believe that “Directed Energy” is either one of two things:

(1) Something from the movie Star Wars where high energy lasers can obliterate large objects instantaneously with a single beam

(2) OR they mistakenly confuse directed energy with renewables—literally confusing directed energy with wind and solar.

Yes, let me state that again.

People often confuse Directed Energy with Renewable Energy.

Although I am a strong supporter of renewables, for the purposes of this speech and for anyone listening beyond this audience, I want to state plainly and distinctly—they are NOT the same thing.

And we need to realize that this inherent confusion does not serve us well as we seek to broaden the reach and scope of this conversation.

But to my first point, the amazing power of high energy lasers seems easy when it comes to special effects in the movies, but the real world science is far more difficult.

As an engineer, I appreciate the desire of fellow engineers to chase perfection.

The pursuit of perfection is what allows technology developed in America to become the envy of the world.

But in the days and years ahead, I call upon all of us—whether it’s industry, the labs, Congress, or the Department of Defense—to focus on getting our hard work into the field—now.

The added value of directed energy weapon systems can no longer be ignored.

Cost-effectiveness, lethality, infinite magazine capacity, and precision targeting are all attributes that the military seeks and needs in its weapon systems.

That’s why, since coming to Congress, I’ve been leading a number of efforts to bring this technology to the forefront.

As a member of the House of Representatives, I founded the first-ever Congressional Directed Energy Caucus.

And as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I worked with Senator Inhofe to authorize new rapid acquisition authorities and to establish a lead advocate for directed energy weapon systems at the Pentagon.

I have also worked to provide significant additional funds for directed energy weapon systems.

I stated this last year and I will state it again—if the Department truly intends to develop a “Third Offset” that will separate us from our adversaries, it should be investing far more in directed energy.

In addition, it’s time for the Department to begin budgeting for the deployment of these technologies, not solely for continued R&D.

And that is why I sent a letter to Secretary Mattis on his first day on the job urging him and other Department officials to provide sufficient resources to accelerate the development of proven systems toward acquisition programs of record.

Let’s be honest. In the past, we spent a lot of money on directed energy systems that were not practical and in some cases simply were not ready for prime time.

Let’s be clear. That is not the case today.

The Pentagon and industry leaders have narrowed their focus to what makes sense from a strategic and practical standpoint by investing in solid state lasers and miniaturizing heating and cooling systems.

Unfortunately, the amount of recent investment has not matched the potential of these systems, and many of them await funding for demonstrations and testing that are scheduled years down the road.

We cannot keep waiting to test prototypes or validate new weapon systems that are sitting in laboratories while our adversaries are testing relentlessly.

Chairmen McCain and Thornberry and Ranking Members Reed and Durbin understand this, and that is why they are focused, as am I, on rapid prototyping. The current Defense Authorization Act and Appropriations Act (working its way through the Hill) include new authorities, streamlined processes, and funding to support prototyping of new systems.

That’s why designating a senior official at the Pentagon entrusted with accelerating the transition of DE weapon systems is so important.

And that’s why I am calling for the establishment of a Directed Energy Weapon System Demonstration Fund.

This fund would be used exclusively for high energy laser and high power microwave prototyping and demonstrations so that we can develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures—or TTPs—for these weapon systems.

Doing so will allow us to engage the warfighter in the use of operational systems and produce military utility assessments.

Ultimately, for any new weapon system, combatant commanders must see capability gaps in the threat environments they manage and seek solutions to address those gaps.

In the case of directed energy systems, prototypes and demonstrations can help illustrate to combatant commanders how these systems can be employed to their advantage.

In the days and years ahead, we cannot let our vision for DE weapon systems be fixated on the depictions seen in movies, but rather on solutions that are ready today.

Sure, a 2-kw or 5-kw laser can’t shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile, but it CAN uniquely disable and eliminate an enemy UAV loaded with explosives from a safe distance.

That is something that could potentially save lives and it is something our forces and the Iraqi Security Forces are facing as we speak.

Sure, a 30 or 50 kw laser on a tactical truck or Stryker vehicle cannot take out an enemy aircraft, but it can destroy rockets, artillery and mortar rounds that enemies like Hamas, Hezbollah, or ISIL may be launching at civilians or our armed forces. Just one more example: a high-powered microwave on a missile may not be able to shut down a targeted building’s electronics and communications systems without collateral damage in what General Goldfein has described as “silent sabotage.”

But, oh wait, YES, it CAN do that.

We have already developed that capability, and it is ready. TODAY!

My point is this: Directed energy weapons systems will not replace kinetic weapon systems, nor are they an all-purpose solution to every warfighting scenario out there.

But there are specific scenarios today where directed energy weapon systems can, and should, provide our military with tactical and strategic advantages.

We cannot continue to let our pursuit of perfection deprive our military of game-changing capabilities.

That’s why I am grateful to all of you in the Directed Energy community for taking an active role in educating policymakers and acquisition staff on the potential of directed energy technology.

I remain your committed partner in this endeavor.