WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have introduced the Directed Energy Weapon Systems Acquisition Act of 2016, a bill to accelerate the development and transition of directed energy technology capabilities for our nation's military. The bill authorizes the Secretary of Defense to use rapid acquisition authorities for directed energy weapon systems development and fielding.
"I truly believe that directed energy will provide our armed forces with a qualitative advantage over our adversaries and play a critical role in the future of weapons systems for our military. This legislation will drive change forward even faster," said Sen. Heinrich. "New Mexico is home to incredible assets for directed energy such as the Air Force Research Laboratory, the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office, White Sands Missile Range, and many key industry players that contribute enormously to our national security and our state's economy. Our state will undoubtedly continue to be a leader and make major contributions to this emerging field that will provide critical tools to our national defense in the years to come."
"U.S. superiority on the land, sea, air and space have been eroded by procurement holidays and inadequate funding. This has enabled Russia and China to catch up and, in some areas, surpass the U.S. in combat capabilities," said Sen. Inhofe. "Directed energy is one area the U.S. still has the advantage and could fundamentally change the battlefield. This legislation will help to encourage strategic planning, robust funding, and engagement by the Pentagon with industry and universities on directed energy weapons, and provide authority to rapidly acquire new directed energy weapon systems."
In a letter of endorsement, Directed Energy Professional Society Executive Director Mark W. Neice said, "Rapid acquisition authority will ease the typical requirements development and acquisition process for this innovative technology. Now that the directed energy technologies have matured into several highly-successful demonstrations, against difficult and asymmetric threats, the time is right to transition these technologies into capabilities for the Department of Defense."
Senator Heinrich is leading the effort to transition directed energy weapon systems, developed by industry, national labs, and research facilities, to programs that help the U.S. and our allies maintain military superiority. Senator Heinrich helped establish a new $300 million initiative in the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to maintain and enhance the military technological superiority of the United States by accelerating the fielding of certain technologies with an emphasis on directed energy. Up to $150 million of the $300 million was authorized specifically for directed energy.
Last month, Senator Martin 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 in Albuquerque to continue the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile, also known as 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 is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and has worked over the last several years to increase funding and support for the development of directed energy technology like CHAMP for our military.