Congress Establishes Joint Energetics Transition Office

By Laura Heckmann

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Energetic materials — the chemicals used as propellants, pyrotechnics and explosives — have been on the development backburner since the fall of the Soviet Union, but a renewed sense of urgency prompted Congress to call for an office dedicated to its resurgence.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, signed by President Joe Biden Dec. 22, includes language to establish a new Joint Energetics Transition Office within the Defense Department.

The provision, outlined in section 241, tasks the office with developing a comprehensive energetics strategy, assessing and strengthening the energetics supply chain and coordinating research, development, testing and evaluation efforts across the department, industry and academia.

The United States has relied on the same two energetic chemicals since the 1940s: RDX and HMX. National Defense previously reported that a superior chemical called CL-20 has existed since the 1980s, and exceeds the propellant and explosive properties of RDX and HMX by “significant margins,” according to a 2021 study released by the Energetics Technology Center.

Today, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concern about China — which has been using the U.S.-developed CL-20 — have brought the materials back into focus, and experts have emphasized their importance in order to compete in a new landscape.

Thus, the goal of the Joint Energetics Transition Office is to promote the development of modern chemicals that will give munitions greater range and punch and allow U.S. forces to operate at greater distances.

Experimenting with CL-20 is included among four other energetics-related provisions in the NDAA report — including section 243, which designates a pilot program to experiment with the compound.

National Armaments Consortium Executive Director Charlie Zisette in a statement applauded Congress for “recognizing the strategic importance of energetics technologies to our national security,” saying the office will “enable the DoD to organize, strategize and execute a cohesive energetics strategy moving forward. This will increase the resilience of our supply chain and help our warfighters dominate the battlefield of today and tomorrow.” ND

Topics: Global Defense Market, Defense Department

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