The Defense Department has moved directed energy (DE) funds out of the Missile Defense Agency and consolidated them under the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, OUSD(R&E) led by Michael Griffin.

DE is an example of shifting priorities within the department, Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Vice Adm. Jon Hill said during the MDA’s FY 2021 budget request press briefing on Feb. 10.

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Hill said this is not jettisoning or dumping of a program, but “kind of a shift in the priorities and how we do things across the department.”

“The Department had come in and said let’s have a consolidated approach. Dr. Griffin stood up an assistant director for Directed Energy. They built road maps. We lined up to those road maps and what that does is that allows us to work on different types of technologies and they reach a certain power level,” Hill continued.

Hill said DoD can have different gates with the consolidated approach, such as where a technology is sent off to industry, one where it applies more to the Navy or Air Force than missile defense applications, “so it’s a more holistic DoD approach.”

“So even though you won’t see those dollars in our budget, I’m absolutely confident that when the technology gets to where it needs to be that MDA has access to that technology and can bring that down and use it,” he added.

MDA’s FY 2020 budget request sought $$661 million in Directed Energy Demonstrator Development (DEDD) over the FY 2020-2024 Future Years Defense Program period alone, starting with $116 million in FY 2020. The technology maturation initiative (TMI) sought to demonstrate the utility of using DE for missile defense especially, planning to incrementally demonstrate and improve the components needed for a directed energy kill chain.

FY ’20 MDA budget justification documents explained the DEDD addresses technology risk reduction and maturation for high powered strategic lasers, beam control, and steering.

“The laser scaling effort is tightly coupled with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD R&E) Laser Road map, and is essential to mature strategic laser technology sufficient to enter into the ASD R&E approach. Once strategic laser concepts meet the minimum requirements, they can be transitioned into the R&E laser scaling program for further development,” the documents said.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver told Defense Daily that the new overall program “encompasses a technical approach that is cross-cutting in that it benefits all the services and MDA.”

He underscored DoD’s directed energy program expands by $25 million in the FY ’21 budget request.

Carver elaborated the shift “is simply an efficient way to manage the overall department program for development of this critical capability.”

When asked if these technologies would move back to MDA or the services at a certain point, Carver said, “the department’s intent is to transition mature technologies to the warfighter when practical to do so.”

FY ’21 MDA budget justification documents noted funding for directed energy technology maturation programs like the DEDD were being reduced to reflect “the reduction and reallocation of funding for Directed Energy Demonstrator Development (Laser Scaling) to higher priority Department investments, the completion of passive Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) missile tracking tests and demonstrations, and removal of advanced sensor participation from the Integrated Master Test Plan (IMTP).”

It noted DEDD efforts “are tightly coupled” with Griffin’s office’s High Energy Laser Development Road Map, and starting in FY ’21 “this effort transitions from TMI to OUSD(R&E).”