Why Is the U.S. Funding Russian Laser Tag?

Lawmakers Call on NNSA to Stop Transfers of Military Equipment to Russia
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A Romanian soldier is trained on the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System. (EUCOM)

Despite the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, the United States is sending Russia a laser system used in force-on-force training free of charge. And that’s not sitting well with some Members of Congress.

As Russia has consolidated its grip on the Crimean peninsula, President Obama has levied sanctions against certain Russian and Ukrainian officials, and the Pentagon has cut off military-to-military ties with the Russian Federation.

But the Department of Energy’s FY15 budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration includes funding to provide the Russian Federation with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) “to support effective protective force performance testing.”

MILES is essentially an advanced “laser tag” system, which uses a system of lasers and blank cartridges to simulate battle, especially for direct-fire force-on-force training. Cubic Defense Applications, which developed that latest version of MILES, says the system creates “a realistic tactical engagement simulation environment for soldiers and security forces training in the field against an opposing force.”

Eighteen Republican House members, led by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), are calling on the Department of Energy, which oversees the National Nuclear Security Administration, to stop the transfer of MILES and any other military equipment to Russia.

“It is difficult to imagine a worse time to provide military-grade technology employed by the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, and Special Operations Forces to Russia than when it has illegally invaded Ukraine and is violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty,” said the lawmakers in a March 24 letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.   

The lawmakers urged Secretary Moniz to recognize it would be a mistake to continue plans to send MILES to Russia, saying it would send the wrong message to make “a gift of military technology that makes its forces more lethal to a state with the means to launch an invasion of its neighbor.”

In addition to MILES, Bridenstine, Turner, and the other 16 Republicans asked that the Secretary review and provide a list of all funding in the NNSA’s FY15 budget request that is “provided to, or is used for technology or services provided to, the Russian Federation.” They are also seeking an intelligence assessment by the United States to determine whether such technology would be used by Russia for purposes other than Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. 

The Department of Energy directed inquiries on this subject to the National Nuclear Security Administration. A spokesman for the NNSA was not immediately available for comment. 

UPDATE (March 28, 2014)

The Department of Energy has announced that after conducting a review of all DOE Russia-related activities, the department will no longer request funding to provide Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) gear to Russia in its FY15 budget.


Dustin Walker is the Editor of RealClearDefense.

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