Need to Have ABL, But: Former Air Force Chief of Staff, retired Gen. Larry Welch, told lawmakers last week that he believes work on the Airborne Laser, which some say is sure to be cut in this ever-tougher budget climate, should continue but there are other advanced technologies that need investment. During a March 26 House Armed Services strategic forces panel hearing, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said, "I'm very concerned about Airborne Laser," since this Administration may cancel it. He added that he thinks "that's an extremely dangerous thought because the laser technology, I believe, is to missile defense what the computer chip was to the computer industry." Welch, who currently is president and chief executive officer of Institute for Defense Analyses and was part of a Congressionally directed study on the future roles and missions of the Missile Defense Agency, said in response, "There are huge technological issues associated with effective laser systems, and while the Airborne Laser, in my view, is something that we need to have, we need to be flying, and we need to be learning about it, but there are also advanced technologies that would make a system order of magnitude more effective, and we need to be making investments in those technologies."
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