Defense

Congress Wants Mattis To Play With Lasers

Several members of Congress want new Secretary of Defense James Mattis to invest and develop several laser weapons systems in each branch of the military.

Building laser, sonic and microwave weapons systems, known as “directed energy” weapons, will help the U.S. “maintain technological superiority and stay ahead of our adversaries,” the members of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus argue in a letter sent to Mattis Monday.

The letter, signed by Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, the founder of the caucus, as well as Democratic Rhode Island Rep. James Langevin and Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, urges Mattis to tackle the difficult Pentagon acquisitions bureaucracy to channel more funding toward getting advanced weaponry out of the lab and into operation.

“Too often, capable and proven directed energy weapon systems languish in perpetual research and development,” the letter said.

“Despite investing billions of dollars in directed energy since the 1960s, and years of hard work by defense laboratories and industry, the Department has not fielded an operational directed energy weapon system.”

Mattis should “dedicate sufficient resources for developing physical prototypes of directed energy weapon systems to enable those men and women in the fight to fully explore the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development,” the letter says.

Most branches of the military have a “marquee”-directed energy weapons system in development, not all of them lasers. The Air Force, for example, has the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), which is a missile that destroys electronics without much physical damage, and a high energy laser (HEL) that will hopefully be able to shoot down aircraft from a fighter jet.

The Air Force awarded the Boeing Company $90 million in December to advance the experimental HEL prototype further. (RELATED: Military Looks To Make Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ A Reality By 2021)

Mattis was confirmed overwhelmingly by the Senate Friday, and arrived at the Pentagon for work Saturday morning. (RELATED: Mattis Celebrates First Day At Pentagon By Blowing Up ISIS 31 Times)

Mattis, a former Marine general, has widespread bipartisan support, and Heinrich believes he will provide stability in an uncertain Trump administration.

Mattis is not only “exceptionally qualified for this position,” Heinrich said in a statement Monday, “but he also has the ability to serve as a stabilizing force in the new Administration and can help temper some of the more extreme and impulsive reactions that President Trump and his team have demonstrated.”

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