Lawmakers are looking to establish a new working group at the Pentagon to better coordinate development of directed energy (DE) capabilities across the services.

The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats & Capabilities’ markup of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the new working group to “leverage shared research and development, eliminate redundant efforts, and expedite the operationalization of directed energy programs.”

A rendering of a truck mounted 60 kW laser weapon system for tactical U.S. Army vehicles. Graphic: Lockheed Martin

The committee supports investments across the Department of Defense in directed energy systems capable of countering the full array of incoming threats, from unmanned air systems to cruise missiles,” lawmakers wrote in its mark-up summary. “The committee also supports development of systems with endless, or near endless, magazines to ensure capability to counter salvos or swarms of any size.”

The working group is tasked with assessing the status of current and planned DE efforts, making recommendations to the senior leadership on establishing memorandums of understanding for new joint activities and identifying methods for rapid fielding of new capabilities. 

The Pentagon’s Assistant Director of Directed Energy would lead the new group, which will also include one member from each military department and a member appointed by each of the following: the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, the directors of the Strategic Capabilities Office and DARPA. 

Lawmakers are also calling on the Pentagon’s top directed energy official to submit a report by Dec. 1 on the department’s efforts to develop “endless magazine” capabilities.

“The committee is concerned that while the Department has included reference to a near endless magazine in its budget justifications for high energy laser systems, it has not defined the term sufficiently to facilitate predictable requirements development and guide investment by industry,” the subcommittee wrote.