Directed Energy Weapons – Emerging Capabilities and the Importance of Law and Policy in Future Security Planning

Friday, February 17, 2012
Skysong, ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center
Building 1475, Second Floor, Global 201
Scottsdale, AZ

Sponsored by the Security and Defense Systems Initiative at Arizona State University, the Center for Law and Global Affairs, and the Center for Law, Science & Innovation in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The tactical use of directed energy weapons has the potential to substantially alter modern warfare in ways that may require new interpretations of the Law of Armed Conflict. In addition, these emerging systems, as well as related non-lethal systems, raise a variety of broad ethical and policy concerns. This conference brings together a select group of technologists, military leaders, social scientists, and experts in law and human rights to discuss the status of directed energy weapons, current plans for their deployment, and key legal, policy, and ethical issues associated with their use.

The conference is invitation-only and not for attribution. Issues discussed at the conference will be presented in a report designed to help to focus and guide planning regarding directed energy weapons. The keynote speaker will be General Donald Hoffman, Commander of Air Force Materiel Command.

The conference will include:

  1. A summary of the current status of this new class of weaponry, with particular focus on high-power laser-based directed energy (DE) and high-power microwave (HPM) capabilities for tactical strikes with the potential for low collateral damage.
  2. Overviews of current plans for using these emerging capabilities by the various United States military services.
  3. Discussions of appropriate legal, policy, and ethical review processes that may be needed for employing these emerging weapons systems.
  4. Perspectives on the importance of integrating interdisciplinary law and policy considerations at this crucial stage in the development of directed energy weapons.

The goal of the conference is to enable a deeper and more comprehensive engagement with how DE and HPM weapons should be understood from the perspective of domestic and international law, how rules of engagement for this new class of tactical strike capabilities can be appropriately developed, and how to engage these technologies from an ethical and social perspective.

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