PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivers the keynote address at the Directed Energy Summit, March 21, 2018
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 2018 Directed Energy Summit in Washington, D.C.
Senator Heinrich has led a bipartisan effort with industry, advocacy groups, and the military services to establish a $100 million directed energy weapons program. He is spearheading efforts to transition directed energy weapon systems, like high-energy-lasers and high-powered-microwaves, many of which are developed in New Mexico, out of the laboratories and into the hands of the warfighters.
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you for the fourth annual Directed Energy Summit.
As many of you know, I’ve addressed this conference for the last few years.
And I am very pleased with the momentum we have been building.
Just in the past few years, we’ve seen lasers enter the field.
The Navy deployed to the Persian Gulf with a 30kw laser on the USS Ponce.
The Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller recently said that the Yemen coast was a ‘live fire laboratory’ for firing lasers.
And the Army has recently deployed a laser on a Stryker to Europe to help shoot down drones.
These developments are especially exciting for me because I started my career as an engineer in New Mexico working on directed energy technology at what is now the Air Force Research Laboratory.
I have a unique knowledge in Congress and a deep appreciation of what these systems can mean for our military.
I am passionate about what the applications of directed energy mean for providing our military with new tactical tools and strategic advantages.
And you should hopefully all know by now how strongly I believe in pursuing game changing directed energy systems for practical military use.
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 have taken a number of major steps over the past few years to provide all of you in the Directed Energy community with the congressional backing, resources, and authorities needed to finally put lasers and microwaves to use in the field.
As a quick reminder of what we’ve accomplished: Three years ago, Congress granted rapid acquisition authorities for directed energy weapons systems.
Two years ago, Congress required that the Pentagon have a Senior Official entrusted with accelerating the transition of DE weapon systems into the field.
One year ago in Congress, we established a new 100 million dollar Directed Energy Weapon System Rapid Prototyping and Demonstration Program to hone our investments on the latter stages of development.
And this year, I am calling for the designation of a Joint Directed Energy Test Center for our country to support more rapid and cost effective testing and fielding of directed energy weapon systems.
Is it me, or are we are starting to see a lot of momentum?
Together with many of you, I have played a leadership role in each of these milestones and I am very excited about the direction we are headed.
And I’d like to focus my remarks today on the momentum we have built, and the work that remains to be done.
We have a senior Pentagon official now, and he spoke at the summit this morning.
Dr. Michael Griffin is the nation’s first-ever Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Senior Official entrusted with accelerating the development and transition of DE weapon systems.
Dr. Griffin is going to be a great partner, not only because of his experience, but because of his proactive approach toward getting things done.
And that’s what we need right now for weapon systems like lasers and high powered microwaves.
We need senior level officials at the Pentagon to identify capability gaps and know where directed energy can be a solution.
We need senior officials at the Pentagon to help push the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and the military services to recognize the added value of directed energy weapon systems when they write military requirements.
And all of us here today know that DE systems have real advantages in terms of precision targeting, endless magazine and the cost per shot doctrine.
We need senior level officials at the Pentagon to take ownership of Directed Energy in budget deliberations and program funding battles.
We need senior level officials to speak up for Directed Energy when Analysis of Alternatives are occurring.
Finally, we need senior level officials to help directed energy weapon systems cross the threshold from R&D to procurement.
The threats are real, and the capability gaps exist.
Around the world, we are seeing the proliferation of inexpensive rockets, missiles, artillery, mortar and UAV’s.
In every war game scenario, these weapons are proliferating and threatening our ability to operate as freely.
In every cost equation, we face an unwinnable predicament when comparing the inexpensive costs of rockets, UAV’s and missiles versus our kinetic defense systems.
Take North Korea for example. They have an arsenal of countless rockets, artillery, mortar, and missiles.
And we currently don’t have systems that can reliably and continuously intercept them at a reasonable cost.
I have long argued that the question of “What is our Third Offset?” should actually be “What is our Third Offset FOR fill-in-the-blank?”
In other words, what are we developing an offset for exactly?
Because until we know the problem we are trying to solve, we can’t truly be developing an offset.
The proliferation of rockets, artillery, mortar, UAV’s and missiles is the problem. Directed Energy is the solution.
Lasers and microwaves can engage targets for pennies on the dollar, and with precision.
In order to accelerate the development of DE weapons systems, Congress authorized a new Directed Energy Weapon System Demonstration Program that I secured in the last Defense Authorization Bill.
This program will 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 continue engaging the warfighter in the use of operational systems and produce military utility assessments.
As I mentioned earlier, in this year’s Defense Bill, I’m working to establish a Joint Directed Energy Test Center.
Our nation's infrastructure for testing laser and microwave weapon systems is antiquated and in need of modernization.
As many of you may know, the Department of Defense established the nation's first High Energy Laser System Test Facility in 1975.
The technology has seen significant advancements over the course of the four decades since then.
As directed energy weapon systems mature, the need to validate their performance becomes increasingly important.
A Joint Directed Energy Test Center could concentrate government expertise and support more rapid and cost effective testing and fielding of directed energy weapon systems.
Doing so would also allow the broad, standardized collection and evaluation of data to establish test references and support policy decisions in a more reliable fashion. I think that’s the next major step forward.
Before I finish, I’d just like to take a moment to thank and recognize all of you who work on a daily basis to develop this technology in our defense laboratories, at our test ranges, and at our manufacturing companies.
Thank you for all that you do to keep our nation safe.
I’m convinced that directed energy will have a large role to play in keeping our military on the cutting-edge of technology and keeping our nation safe.
Please keep educating policymakers and acquisition staff on the potential of directed energy technology.
I remain your committed partner in this endeavor.