Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Nonlethal weapons (NLW) provide an alternative when lethal force is undesirable. The Department of Defense (DOD) defines NLW as those that are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment. DOD created the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program in 1996 to have centralized responsibility for the development of NLW and coordinate requirements among the services. GAO was asked to review the status of NLW programs within DOD and the military services by identifying the extent to which (1) DOD and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program have developed and fielded NLW since the program's inception; (2) DOD has established and implemented policy, doctrine, and training for NLW; and (3) DOD has conducted testing and evaluation prior to fielding NLW. GAO reviewed and analyzed DOD and service plans, guidance, and doctrine and interviewed officials associated with NLW development.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To help DOD better match program priorities to identified capability gaps, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), in consultation with the services and combatant commanders, to assess and document the extent to which NLW efforts at the technology development stage and beyond (including procurement and operations and maintenance) address the highest-priority Joint Staff-validated capability gaps.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that it recognized the value of mapping technology development programs to validated capability gaps and was developing a methodology for such a mapping in the revision of the Non-Lethal Weapon Capabilities Roadmap, and would incorporate this methodology into the Joint Non-Lethal Program management process. Since this report was issued, DOD has stated that 1) the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) has developed a methodology for mapping development programs to validated capability gaps and 2) this methodology serves as the foundation for JNLWD program investment priorities and decisions. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 2. To help DOD better incorporate logistics and supportability considerations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the JNLWD, in consultation with the services and combatant commanders, to ensure that appropriate logistics and supportability planning is integrated into development efforts at the earliest possible stage, including both DOD-developed and commercial weapons and capabilities. Incorporating changes to--and using information already gathered for--the JNLWD's Investment Decision Support Tool might assist the directorate and DOD in establishing clear criteria and ensuring progress in this area.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In August 2009, DOD reported that in response to the recommendation, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) added a logistics "stop light" assessment chart to the annual Director's Reviews to track the status of the 10 Integrated Logistics Support elements during the development process. JNLWD reported that it has also hired a Logistics Management Specialist who is responsible for ensuring that Integrated Logistics Support requirements influence the design and development of non-lethal weapons. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 3. To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should require the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in consultation with the Executive Agent, to ensure that NLW strategic guidance that sets out goals, objectives, and a framework for research, development, and acquisition--including science and technology efforts--is established and routinely updated.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD reported that, before each semi-annual meeting, the offices of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) and Policy would have the opportunity to review the program/budget proposals, topics, and issues that the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) presents to the Joint Coordination Integration Group and the Joint NLW Integrated Product Team (IPT). DOD stated that this would improve OSD oversight of the Joint NLW Program and allow the JNLWD to incorporate OSD guidance into program plans. In 2011, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) stated that, together with the JNLWD, it would continue to process updates to the Joint Services Memorandum of Agreement and the DOD NLW Capability Roadmap as needed. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 4. To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should require the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to oversee the development of performance evaluation criteria to guide decisions on how and for how long to allocate resources to research and development efforts. In addition to established DOD financial management regulations, DOD could use existing tools, such as the Investment Decision Support Tool, to help develop and implement these measures.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that annual program reviews by the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) use a standardized template that includes, but is not limited to, cost, schedule, and technical performance. Programs not meeting these objectives are briefed to senior officers/officials in the Joint Coordination Integration Group, which decides whether to recommend termination of the program to the Joint NLW IPT. The use of a Program/Project Risk Matrix has been added to the standardized program review template to aid in identification, prioritization and management of key program risk areas, allowing for better informed resource allocation decisions. Program managers are required to brief a risk matrix during the annual program reviews. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 5. To help the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in its role in overseeing DOD's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to develop and execute a methodology for monitoring all NLW-related funding and programs across DOD and designate a central focal point within that office to coordinate the effort with the JNLWD.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that in August 2009, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) requested the Joint Non-Lethal Weapon Directorate (JNLWD) to provide annual DOD NLW investment reports. DOD reported that the first such report was completed in April 2010, providing AT&L with FY 2010-15 investment plans across all appropriations including Science and Technology, R&D, Procurement, and O&M. Also included in this report is an assessment by the JNLWD on overall DOD program progress and issues. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 6. To help DOD more fully incorporate non-lethal concepts and capabilities into its existing and new policy and doctrine for operations overseas and in the homeland, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to articulate a methodology and develop a time frame for determining acceptable risk with respect to lethality and permanent injury for operators, targets, and bystanders due to the use of specific types of NLW.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, stating in 2009 that the department agreed with the need for a methodology and timeframe for assessing the risks inherent in the employment of specific types of non-lethal weapons. DOD stated that it appreciated GAO's acknowledgement of its efforts to draft the Risk of Significant Injury methodology to address this need. The methodology is intended to enable requirements developers to characterize risks to targets. It has been incorporated into the requirements development process of two non-lethal weapons programs. DOD further reported that in response to the recommendation, the methodology is the basis for a department-wide human effects characterization guidance document. DOD issued this guidance, DOD Instruction 3200.19, "Non-Lethal Weapons Human Effects Characterization," on May 17, 2012. These actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 7. To help DOD more fully incorporate non-lethal concepts and capabilities into its existing and new policy and doctrine for operations overseas and in the homeland, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Services, to provide clearer weapons employment guidance that can be used to modify or augment existing rules of engagement or rules for the use of force for both warfighters and domestic responders on how non-lethal weapons should be used under certain conditions, and incorporate this guidance into training curricula.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that non-lethal weapons employment should be integrated into existing policy documents to provide complementary guidance. In August 2010, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) provided a list of all joint doctrine publications (operations series) and specifically identified those that 1) address NLW, 2) cite employment of fires but do not differentiate between lethal weapons and NLW, and 3) are not applicable. DOD used this process to confirm that key publications are regularly updated. Taken together, these actions address the intent of the recommendation.
Department of Defense 8. To help DOD conduct more thorough testing and evaluation of non-lethal weapons and aid end users' ability to plan by knowing what to expect from NLW before using the weapon, the Secretary of Defense should direct the JNLWD and the military services to finalize and implement a risk assessment methodology for human effects testing of NLW and develop a timeline for implementing the methodology.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) developed human effects characteristics guidance, which DOD subsequently incorporated into DOD-wide non-lethal weapons guidance. DOD Instruction 3200.19, "Non-Lethal Weapons Human Effects Characterization," was issued on May 17, 2012. These actions address the intent of the recommendation.

Full Report