Trump accelerates directed-energy weapons development

President Trump's 2020–2024 military budget reveals 186 cutbacks or cancelations of Army weapon systems to focus on directed-energy battlefield dominance.

The Military Times lamented just weeks before President Obama was set to leave office that after eight years of managing America's defense preparedness, "His moves to slim down the armed forces, move away from traditional military might and overhaul social policies prohibiting the service of minority groups have proven divisive in the ranks."

Perhaps the most egregious spending boondoggle during the Obama years was the cost of constructing the USS Ford aircraft carrier that skyrocketed from $10.5 billion to $13.1 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  Obama responded to criticism by ordering 10 more Ford-class aircraft carriers, including naming the second carrier, set to begin construction in 2024, the USS Barack Obama.

The extent of the damage became evident in the Rand Corporation's latest Blue (United States) versus Red (Russia and China) war games after-action report, titled "America's Security Deficit."  Senior analyst David Ochmanek told Breaking Defense that despite spending $700 billion a year on an array of super-weapons including stealth aircraft and 1,100-foot carriers, U.S. forces "suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can't stop Russia or China" from overrunning U.S. allies in the Baltics or Taiwan.

The Trump administration has moved quickly by slashing $60 billion for outdated Army equipment, like the politically favored CH-47 Chinook helicopter that began production in 1958, to fund the six major priorities of "Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air-and-Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality."  Over 100 new directed energy and hypersonic weapons are in development.

Newly appointed as the first chief of Army Futures Command, Gen. John Murray is focused on artillery, referred to as a "dead branch walking" against entrenched Afghanistan and Iraq guerrillas, which needs urgent upgrading to contend with Russia and China, who field massive numbers of field guns and non-nuclear short-range missiles.

As important as it is to be able to engage enemies with hypersonic missiles that can travel at Mach 5 (3,800 miles per hour), the Army needs a defense against enemy Mach 5 hypersonic weapons and massed drones, shells, rockets, and cruise missile attacks.

Deputy chief of staff for programming Gen. John "Mike" Murray told the House Armed Services subcommittee last week that the Army is already reporting "great success" at killing drones with experimental low-powered lasers, and a laser weapon mounted on an 8×8 Stryker is expected to enter service in 2023.  He projects that a much more powerful truck-mounted directed energy cannon will be deployed soon thereafter.

Assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition Bruce Jette told the House committee that the Trump administration intends to have all branches of the military work together on directed-energy weapon logistics and technology because "[t]here's not enough money to see if we can compete with the Air Force, the Navy, and DARPA."

The Trump crash program in directed-energy development drove spending to $1.1 billion in 2019.  But Pentagon planners told the House that due to the success of the effort, their budget request for 2020 would fall to $840 million.