Ballistic Missile Defense:

Information on Directed Energy Programs for Fiscal Years 1985 Through 1993

NSIAD-93-182: Published: Jun 24, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of Defense (DOD) recommendations for transferring or retaining management responsibility for directed energy technologies in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and for determining the future direction of directed energy development.

GAO found that: (1) the $4.9 billion allocated by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), the predecessor organization of BMDO, for fiscal years 1985 through 1993, for developing directed energy weapons technology was spent on the space-based chemical laser, ground-based laser, and space-based neutral particle beam programs; (2) SDIO fabricated and tested the Alpha laser beam generator, the 4-meter primary mirror, and the beam control system; (3) in December 1990, SDIO decided that the free electron laser program would be reoriented toward demonstrating the feasibility of a space-based weapon, but it has completed only one of the five program objectives; (4) SDIO accomplished four of the eight program objectives for the space-based neutral particle beam; (5) SDIO met the 1984 plan objectives for developing pointing and tracking technology for directed energy weapons, but did not meet the objectives for developing long-range fine tracking and fire control software; and (6) SDIO planned to pursue the development of nuclear-directed energy technology to provide the United States with better knowledge of potential Soviet capabilities and the basis for a ground-based or pop-up nuclear-directed energy capability.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: At the request of Congress, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization provided the defense committees a report on its plans for developing directed energy weapon systems on June 6, 1994.

    Matter: In view of the large amount of funding needed to complete these programs and the uncertainty over the time period required, Congress may wish to request that DOD provide it with a plan that has detailed information about what DOD intends to do with these technologies, the funding needed, and the schedule.


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