Pentagon Could Search Soldier DNA for Ultimate Warrior Genes
To help isolate the traits that make some soldiers better than others, the Pentagon is being urged to consider mapping military personnel's genomes in attempt to better understand and use genes relevant to fighting in a war.
The report was released by the JASON defense science advisory panel titled "The $100 Genome: Implications for the DoD" and was written by a group of scientists founded in the '60s who often help the government with research.
In the report, the researchers discuss the decreasing cost of genetic sequencing and how obtaining the sequencing information can help the military. It does not, however, suggest that the military begin breeding super soldiers.
"The report is entirely speculative what is not is the dramatic decrease in the cost involved, so really what they are saying is the sharp decline in the cost of mapping the genome opens up some new possibilities that should be considered," said Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.
The report states that the price of sequencing has been greatly reduced over the past decade, and suggests that as the cost decreases, more genetic material will become available to researchers. That vast amount of genomic material will enable Pentagon scientists to conduct large-scale efforts to link genetic markers with useful war fighting traits.
"The Defense Department might have a specific interest in this technology, partly out of medical considerations, that is identifying possible lessons that would be relevant to military health care issues, Aftergood said. "Also it is briefly suggested [in the report] that there might also be an interest from a strictly military point of view. In that a study of human genomics might lend itself to the selection of personnel for particular military missions and that genomic information would also be of interest with respects for foreign militaries."
The report itself does discuss the fact that the Department of Defense should attempt to determine which phenotypes have relevance to military performance.
"The first step, therefore, is for the DoD to determine which phenotypes that might reasonably be expected to have a genetic component have special relevance to military performance and medical cost containment," the report said. "More specifically, one might wish to know about phenotypic responses to battlefield stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the ability to tolerate conditions of sleep deprivation, dehydration, or prolonged exposure to heat, cold or high altitude, or the susceptibility to traumatic bone fracture, prolonged bleeding or slow wound healing."
In addition, the report mentions the possibility of creating a database of the relevant traits and those in the military who possess them.
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