Exploring Biotechnology: Opportunities for the Department of Defense

POSTED:  February 23, 2002


(.mil/.gov ONLY) Biotechnology has revolutionary potential for a broad range of U.S. military capabilities. Further, because of the United State’s unparalleled lead in research and development, biotechnology presents the opportunity to recast the framework of military operations and create a long term U.S. advantage in the global strategic environment. Biotechnology applications range from enhancing human performance by making warfighters resistant to the elements, to hardware systems design, such as creating advanced missile defense systems with biomimetic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) swarms. If biotechnology’s strategic importance is realized, it could provide the U.S. with a significant advantage for the next two to three decades. Although the broad military potential of biotechnology is exceptionally promising, capturing it for defense purposes is not being realized. Biotechnology requires different skill sets and expertise than DoD currently recruits and retains. In addition, there is little guiding policy or legal documents to establish the ethical ‘playing field’ for DoD to take advantage of emerging commercial applications and advances. This framework must be established to support and facilitate biotechnology research and development. Finally, even if DoD were to identify and prototype a biotechnology application` for the war-fighter, it does not have the military industrial complex to mass-produce the products. DoD needs to establish firm business ties to the commercial biotechnology community to develop the industrial base required for military capability production. These issues and others must be addressed by the highest level of DoD leadership in order to ensure biotechnology’s potential is captured and fully exploited. The purpose of this report was to determine if the explosion of discovery and advances in biotechnology held the same potential for advances in military affairs as the Information Revolution. The approach undertaken focused on three converging areas: – Legal and Policy – Development of Exemplars – Provide Recommendations on the DoD Infrastructure. Biotechnology holds the promise of revolutionary military advances for DoD in a broad range of applications. Given our unique lead in this fundamental science, these advances may provide a significant strategic advantage to the United States for the next several decades. However, DoD is poorly disposed to recognize, much less take action to realize this potential. A process of education, action, and the involvement of senior DoD leaders is needed to move forward on the opportunities being presented.

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