Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date February 2004
Task Force Report No. 50
Integrating nonlethal weapons (NLW) more widely into the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could have reduced damage, saved lives, and helped limit the widespread looting and sabotage that occurred after the cessation of major conflict in Iraq. So argues this report of a Council-sponsored independent Task Force led by Dr. Graham T. Allison, director of the Belfer Center for science and international affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, General Paul X. Kelley, USMC (ret.), former commandant of the Marine Corps, and former military officers, business executives, academics, diplomats, and congressional staff. Incorporating NLW capabilities into the equipment, training, and doctrine of the armed services could substantially improve U.S. effectiveness in conflict, postconflict, and homeland defense. The Task Force report concludes that equipping U.S.-trained and -supported local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq with NLW would help reinforce authority and be more acceptable to local populations than conventionally armed troops.
Nonlethal weapons have not received the priority they merit at the Pentagon. To expand the role of NLW, the report argues, the secretary of defense should create an office sufficiently funded to serve as the single focal point for all NLW activity. The existing Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate has a budget for fiscal year 2004 of $43.4 million—up from an annual $22 million or so for the past seven years—the report urges a sevenfold increase in funding, to $300 million annually, which is still less than $1 of every $1,000 spent on defense. A breakdown of expenses is included in the report.
The report also advocates a four-pronged approach to further integrate nonlethal capabilities into the U.S. armed services: expand NLW deployment more widely in the Marine Corps and the Army infantry and ensure that the Navy and the Air Force have such capabilities adapted for their force-protection missions; extend the range of NLW payloads to 100 meters through precision delivery and fusing systems; complete development of the NLW system that can turn back an advancing adversary from hundreds of meters away by heating the skin of an individual without permanent injury; and advance the development of concepts such as the advanced tactical laser—which shows promise for use against equipment—along with the advent of nonlethal payloads that home in on a laser spot.