Braver Newer World

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Pentagon science advisers are recommending the U.S. military collect genetic information on its troops in hopes of building a more war-resistant force:

The U.S. military is a major consumer of medical services and has special medical needs compared to the general population. As the revolution in personal genomics proceeds, the military stands to benefit by implementing genomic technologies that enhance medical status and improve treatment outcomes. Furthermore, both offensive and defensive military operations may be impacted by the applications of personal genomics technologies through enhancement of the health, readiness, and performance of military personnel. It may be beneficial to know the genetic identities of an adversary and, conversely, to prevent an adversary from accessing the genetic identities of U.S. military personnel.

As the cost of charting an individual’s genome has fallen — from $300 million a decade ago to a projected $100 by 2013 — scientists will be able to comb through millions of individuals’ genome maps looking for common traits reflected in their DNA sequencing. “Researchers will have access to thousands or even millions of human genomes to seek correlations between genotypes [the genetic makeup of individuals] and phenotypes [the expression of genetic information in observable traits],” says the 54-page report, done by the so-called Jasons, the Pentagon’s outside science advisory panel.

The December study, released by the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, says genetic markers could help build a military force resistant 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.”

Of course, the Jasons warn, “acting on genotype information that is not convincingly linked to specific phenotypes could lead to erroneous and detrimental decision making.” God forbid we have any of that in the military.