Lack of Nonlethal Weapons Capabilities Hindering U.S. Efforts in Postwar Iraq; Experts Urge Department of Defense to Increase Spending Seven-Fold

Lack of Nonlethal Weapons Capabilities Hindering U.S. Efforts in Postwar Iraq; Experts Urge Department of Defense to Increase Spending Seven-Fold

February 24, 2004 1:35 pm (EST)

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February 26, 2004 - Wider integration of nonlethal weapons (NLW) into the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could have reduced damage, saved lives, and helped to limit the widespread looting and sabotage that occurred after the cessation of major conflict in Iraq. Incorporating NLW capabilities into the equipment, training, and doctrine of the armed services could substantially improve U.S. effectiveness in conflict, post-conflict, and homeland defense.

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These are the central findings of the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force on Nonlethal Weapons and Capabilities, led by Graham T. Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and General P.X. Kelley, USMC (Ret.), former Commandant of the Marine Corps. Council Senior Fellow Richard L. Garwin directed the Task Force, which included former military officers, business executives, academics, diplomats, and congressional staffers. (See list below.)

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Nonlethal weapons are valuable for crowd control, minimizing infrastructure damage, sparing the lives of noncombatants, and reducing the long-term environmental impact of conventional weapons. While NLW could be a tremendous asset to the U.S. military, the report finds they have as yet played only a modest role. Had more NLW been available for use by military and security forces— including nets to entangle and stop vehicles, slippery spray, rubber-ball projectiles, rubber pellets, or bean bags— occupying forces in Iraq could have better restrained runaway looting and sabotage. Such weapons could have also offered occupying forces a means of protecting themselves without a high risk of killing innocent Iraqis. The Task Force 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.

Although NLW are not widely integrated into the U.S. Armed Forces, their effectiveness has been demonstrated when used. For example, in March 1995, a force of U.S. Marines equipped with NLW safeguarded the withdrawal of 2,500 U.N. peacekeepers from Somalia without a death among the peacekeepers, the Marines, or the populace.

Despite such successes, the Task Force finds that NLW have not entered the mainstream of defense thinking and procurement. While those who have used them are quick to sing their praises, current Department of Defense and service programs are simply inadequate in size and scope to yield the benefits from NLW. “One could argue whether the problem is organizational or cultural, but nonlethal weapons have not received the priority they merit at the Pentagon. This report makes a persuasive case for changing that,” said Council President Richard N. Haass.

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To expand the role of NLW, argues the report, the Secretary of Defense should create an office large and well-funded enough to serve as the single focal point for all NLW activity. While 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 Task Force saw a need for a sevenfold increase, amounting to a $300 million annual program, still less than $1 for every $1,000 spent on defense. (See report for budget breakdown.)

The Task Force advocates a four-pronged approach to further integrate these capabilities into the U.S. Armed Services:

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  1. Expand NLW deployment more widely in the Marine Corps and the Army Infantry. Ensure that Navy and Air Force have such capabilities adapted for their force-protection missions.
  2. Extend the range of NLW payloads to 100 meters though precision delivery and fusing systems.
  3. Complete development of the NLW system that can stop, deter, and turn back an advancing adversary from hundreds of meters by heating the skin of an individual without permanent injury.
  4. 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.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.


GRAHAM T. ALLISON, Co-chair of the Task Force, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans

RICHARD L. GARWIN, Director of the Task Force, Philip D. Reed Senior Fellow and Director of Science and Technology Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Consultant to the U.S. Government on national security technology and policy and arms control.

THEODORE GOLD, Director of the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program at the Institute for Defense Analyses, IDA. Current member of the DoD Defense Science Board.

JOHN J. HAMRE, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense.

RICHARD HEARNEY, USMC (RET), former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

JAMES KALLSTROM, USMC (RET), Homeland Security adviser to the Governor of New York.

PAUL KAMINSKI, Chairman and CEO of Technovation. Former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition & Technology.

PAUL X. KELLEY, Co-chair of the Task Force, Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and Chairman of the National Legal Center for Public Interest. Former Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

DAVID A. KOPLOW, Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Former DoD Deputy General Counsel (International Affairs).

HOWARD J. KRONGARD, Counsel at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Director of the Legal Advisory Council of The National Legal Center for the Public Interest.

THOMAS L. MCNAUGHER, Vice President for Army Studies of the RAND Corporation. Former Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in defense strategy and politics.

CHRISTOPHER MORRIS, Vice-President of M2 Technologies.

JANET MORRIS, President of M2 Technologies. Former Research Director of the U.S. Global Strategy Council.

GREGORY S. NEWBOLD, USMC (RET), Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Former Director of Operations (J3) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER JR., Chairman of the Defense Science Board.

ROBERT F. TURNER, Co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at University of Virginia School of Law. Former president of the United States Institute of Peace.

ELIZABETH TURPEN, Senior Associate at the Henry L. Stimson Center.

RODERICK VON LIPSEY, USMC (RET), Investment strategist for Goldman, Sachs & Company. Former Director for Defense Policy at the National Security council staff at The White House.

LARRY D. WELCH, USAF (RET), Senior Fellow and former President of the Institute for Defense Analyses. Former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.

MALCOLM H. WIENER, Former chair of the 1995 Council on Foreign Relations Task Force.

CHARLES WILHELM, USMC (RET), Vice President and Director of Homeland Security Programs at the Battelle Memorial Institute. Former Commander in Chief of U.S. Southern Command.

(*) Individual largely concurs with report but submitted an additional view


EMIL R. BEDARD, USMC (RET), Former Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations at U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters.

RICHARD K. BETTS, Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University and Adjunct Senior Fellow for National Security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

PETER DOTTO, USMC (RET), Senior Director for M2 Technologies. Former Director of Special Operations Training Exercises, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

JOHN W. FOLEY, USMC (RET), Vice President for American Systems Corporation.

GEORGE P. FENTON, USMC (RET), Director of Homeland Security Programs for American Systems Corporation. Former Director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD).

EDWARD HANLON, USMC Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, VA.

DAVID P. KARCHER, USMC, Director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD).

KEVIN B. KUKLOK, USMC, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Plans and Policies, Marine Corps Headquarters.

SUSAN D. LEVINE, Deputy Director for Technology in the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate.

JOHN J. NELSON, Defense Analyst for American Systems Corporation. Leader of a NATO study that is developing means to assess nonlethal weapon effectiveness across the spectrum of military operations.

CHUCK RICE, USMC, Deputy Director for Concepts and Requirements at the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD).

JOSEPH RUTIGLIANO, Civilian Lawyer for the Judge Advocate for the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Contact: Lisa Shields, Vice President, Communications, (212) 434-9888


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