Pentagon proposes deep cuts in lasers and directed-energy weapons work in 2013 budget

WASHINGTON, 17 Feb. 2012. Officials of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are planning serious cuts in military lasers and directed-energy weapons work next year, with the Pentagon's proposed spending for directed-energy and laser weapons of $244.28 million. Although it might seem like a substantial amount, proposed fiscal 2013 spending is down 33.23 percent from current-year levels of $365.88 million, and down 44.7 percent from 2011 levels of $441.48 million.

In fiscal 2013, Pentagon officials propose spending $209.24 million for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) related to lasers and directed-energy weapons, and $35.04 million in procurement. Federal fiscal year 2013 begins next Oct. 1.

These numbers are derived from a line-by-line analysis of the 2013 DOD budget request for procurement and RDT&E, and do not reflect potential spending in the Pentagon's operations and maintenance or other budget requests, and do not reflect budget line items in which lasers and directed-energy weapons content is not apparent.

The largest lasers and directed-energy weapons program Pentagon officials plan for next year is the U.S. Air Force's $106.2 million initiative for applied research in directed-energy technology. That figure is down from current-year spending of $141.1 million, and down from 2011 levels of 110.3 million.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) plans to spend $46.9 million for advanced technology development in directed-energy research. That figure is down from $49.9 million in 2012, and down sharply from $126.1 million in 2011.

Next is the U.S. Air Force proposed $38.6 million initiative for applied high-energy laser research. This figure is down from $53.8 million this year, and $51.5 million in 2011. The Air Force also proposed spending $13.1 million for basic high-energy laser research initiatives in 2013, which is down from $14.3 million this year and up slightly from $12.7 million in 2011.

One bright spot in the Pentagon's lasers and directed-energy weapons budget for next year is a proposal by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to spend $4.4 million in operational systems development research for special operations forces visual augmentation, lasers, and sensor systems. SOCOM also proposes to spend $34 million to procure specialized visual augmentation, laser, and sensor systems equipment.

This kind of sophisticated electro-optical gear would enable small specialized forces to infiltrate by land, sea, and air to conduct long-term unconventional warfare, direct action, or deep reconnaissance behind enemy lines areas against terrorists, pirates, or enemy special operations forces.

In other procurement, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) at Fort Monmouth, N.J., proposes to spend $1 million to procure the Green Laser Interdiction System (GLIS). This figure is down from $25.36 million CECOM had budgeted to buy this system in 2012.

The Green Laser Interdiction System is a non-lethal laser weapon designed to control crowds or potential attackers through visual disruption, which means a person’s vision is temporarily impaired so that driving a vehicle or aiming a weapon is not possible. The GLIS is under contract to B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. in Redmond, Wash. The company's brand name for the GLIS family of equipment is GLARE.

The GLARE family of non-lethal laser weapons severely hinder the operation of a vehicle or a weapon by causing temporary effects and no permanent damage to vision, due to user training and automatic safety controls, company officials say. The specific influence of this effect is determined by the power of the laser and the width of the beam.

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