About the INLDT

Soldiers & ChildrenThe roles of the U.S. military and the nature of the threat to our forces have significantly changed over the past two decades as illustrated by U.S. interventions in Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia.

These engagements, unlike those anticipated during the Cold War era, were against small units that were armed with inferior, yet effective, weapons and that often used the civilian populace as a shield.

Crowd at the GateStability and support operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan are characterized by peaceful populations mixing with insurgents. Moreover, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, military deployments to the region underscored the continual need for effective non-lethal capabilities. Every action taken during these operations was dramatized by the U.S. and international news media and reported worldwide in near real time.

In this environment, U.S. military operations are severely constricted when options are limited to only lethal force or withdrawal. Humanitarian alternatives to lethal force continue to be needed for protecting U.S. interests, personnel, and property. Moreover, the need for non-lethal augmentation of conventional military force is expected to increase in the foreseeable future.

There is a similar sense of urgency within the civilian law enforcement community. Non-lethal/less-lethal technologies and tactics expand the number of minimal force options available to law enforcement when use of deadly force is considered inappropriate. They provide flexibility by allowing police to apply appropriate force with reduced risk of serious injury or fatalities, but in such a manner as to provide protection of the public and effect compliance.

Because law enforcement can employ minimal force options at a lower threshold of danger, police can respond to an evolving public security or safety threat more rapidly. This allows local and national police organizations to retain the initiative and reduce both their own and the public vulnerability. Thus, a robust capability in this area will assist in bringing into balance the conflicting requirements of public order, public protection, and the safety of the police. It will enhance the utility and relevance of appropriate force as a legitimate policy option in a potentially complex and chaotic social environment.

Given the recent increase in global terrorism, the need exists for effective and safe techniques that can deal with belligerent crowds and individuals who exploit innocent bystanders for concealment or groups that seize and hold hostages. Safe and effective methods to temporarily disable hostage takers could negate the necessity of lethal force in some situations.

The growing level of violence associated with growing global urbanization and the War on Terror provide a more immediate sense of urgency for identifying broadly accepted (international) approaches for minimal force options.

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"If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner."  Omar N. Bradley

Our Focus is to provide a scientific basis for understanding the various options, technologies, and tactics being contemplated. It is our view that the pursuit of minimal force options, the policy and legal aspects of developing and employing such technology, and the surrounding debates, should be conducted on the basis of existing facts from scientific and social literature.

Support - The Institute's support is provided by various University organizations that have expertise and capabilities in the development of non-lethal defense technologies and that have an interest in collaborative research in this area.

Currently INLDT support is comprised of Penn State organizations and faculty members expert in the relevant fields that provide a multidisciplinary approach to science and technology development including:

  • The Applied Research Laboratory
  • The College of Agricultural Sciences
  • The Center for Community and Public Safety
  • The Eberly College of Science
  • The Justice and Safety Institute
  • The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • The College of Engineering
  • The College of Medicine
  • The Penn State Dickinson School of Law