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Homeland defense plan favors non-lethal technology.

THE PENTAGON IS DEVOTING INCREASING ATTENTION to non-lethal weapons programs, providing baseline requirements for future equipment, senior officials said.

This most recent initiative is included in the first-ever homeland defense and civil support strategy guidelines the Defense Department will unveil later this year, according to Thomas Kuster, deputy assistant secretary for homeland defense.

He is soliciting input from combatant commanders on what their future equipment needs will be in protecting U.S. territory. The blueprint, which got the green light two months ago from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, will emerge as the foundation for acquisition programs to support military homeland defense missions, including less-than-lethal weapons.

Kuster said that once the recommended requirements are returned from the combatant commanders, procurement timelines and an attempt at coordinated purchases with other federal agencies would be considered.

He cautioned the process would be lengthy. The Pentagon's organization for homeland defense was created in 2003, and it has taken steady effort through 2005 for these first steps to be taken, he said.

Once the recommended requirements are returned from the combatant commanders, definitions, timelines and outreach to other federal agencies will be considered. Lags in capabilities will be noted, and industry will have a better handle on which items the defense community needs.

Non-lethal weaponry is one of the core capabilities that commanders must assess in the strategy guidelines. At issue are requirements for future systems and a path to achieve them. "Advocacy for non-lethal weapons has previously resided within the Marine Corps," he said. "There hasn't been a 'suit' beating the drum ... to come up with a comprehensive approach. Well, you have one now."

He was referring to his boss, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale, who is promoting a "fundamental shift in strategy" in protecting the nation from terrorist attacks.

The goal, Kuster said, is to share the requirements cited in the document with agencies across the state and federal spectrum, which should tease out common needs to expand the procurement base. This process is expected to stimulate industry to earmark time and money into now-neglected research areas.

At the forefront of the needed research are novel non-lethal technologies that may be well suited for homeland defense, Kuster said. "We've matured non-lethal technology incrementally; not strategically but by tactical imperatives," he said.

However, the potential for strikes within the United States has forced a change in attitude regarding needed gear from riot control equipment to defenses against operations by transnational terrorist groups.

As an example, he noted: "How many non-lethal options are there for National Guardsmen at Indian Point [nuclear power plant]? Zip." He added that homes are located close to the primary access gate and within range of errant gunfire. Guardsmen were deployed there following September 11, 2001 and remain as perimeter security.

Kuster is not alone in bemoaning the absence of non-lethal options available to troops that are deployed units in war zones. Lt. Gen. Jan Huly, the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, averred that advances in non-lethal technologies are not keeping pace with other military systems.

"I was surprised and disappointed at the scant progress we as a nation ... have made in non-lethal capabilities," he said. "We are still relying on things developed 10 or 15 years ago ... We still have a rubber bullet and bean bag mentality. Surely we can do better."

The Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate, formed in 1996, has received a recent influx of funds but still lags behind other defense programs. In 2000, JNLWD received $25.8 million, $28.1 million in 2001 and $24 million for 2003. In 2004's budget, however, the previous year's figure nearly doubled to $40.9 million, and increased again a year later to $45 million. The administration has requested $43.9 million for 2006.

Huly complained that industry researchers were slow to take up non-lethal weapons development because they saw comparatively little money being spent on it by the Pentagon. The military, meanwhile, is seeking proven technologies in which to invest, but finds little offered by industry. The cycle of failure continues, which leaves front-line troops with nearly the same less-than-lethal options decade to decade.

Kuster said that once the guidelines are released by the Defense Department, he hopes that industry players will make the necessary investment to develop the identified technologies on the premise that they will reap financial reward from a defined, emerging market. "I think we're at the point where we're going to break that chicken and the egg cycle," Kuster said.

The requirements that are developed from combatant commanders will be shared with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and will provide guidance for state and local authorities. The goal is not to set federal-wide requirements, Kuster said, but to broaden the consumer base and entice industry into researching and producing non-lethal technologies.

There are major obstacles to the proliferation of less-than-lethal devices, that likely will require changes in policy, law and--perhaps most importantly, he suggested--the way society regards non-lethal weapons. Policymakers need to address and pursue these challenges concurrent with scientific and industrial developments.

The military and homeland security responders require new non-lethal systems, Kuster said. "Think about what happened in Beslan," he said, referring to the bloody siege in a Russian school-house that ended with scores of dead children and adults.

"You want the FBI to handle that the same way the Russians did? How would we handle Beslan, if it happened here, today?" he asked.
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Author:Pappalardo, Joe
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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