COLUMN: Project sniffs out new way to choose military dogs
Austin McCroskie, The Oklahoma Daily
Canine companions have accompanied soldiers throughout history -- standing shoulder to shoulder, fighting and dying with them. The Marine motto “semper fidelis,” or “always faithful,” was used on a statue to commemorate the deaths of 25 Marine War Dogs in Guam in 1944, according to “The Dogs of War” article of the Sheppard Software website.
Given the rich history of man’s best friend at man’s worst moments, it is understandable the military would want the best dogs to be purposed for war. However, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to use an unorthodox method of locating these dogs: brain scans.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project called FIDOS, or Functional Imaging to Develop Outstanding Service-Dogs, will use functional magnetic resonance imagery scans (fMRIs) to find dogs that have a high amount of neural activity in the reward centers of their brains, according to an article on Live Science. The hope is to find dogs that respond more quickly to training in an effort to cut the $20,000 price tag for each of the 2,700 dogs the Pentagon owns, according to the Daily Mail. This is a brilliant idea, except that an MRI scan costs $1,080 per session for humans, according to an article on Reader Supported News by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.
Considering the Department of Defense recently went through a budget cut of more than $2 billion, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency arm only saw a cut of $1.4 million to its own $2.8 billion budget, you would think researchers would focus effort less on finding smarter dogs and more on developing technologies that help with the ever-changing nature of the modern battlefield. I mean, if I dodged a budget cut like that, I’d be trying to buy a car, not getting a designer puppy.
This spending, however, moves from foolish to ridiculous when considering that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to take these brain-scan selected dogs and train them using robots, according to an article on Wired.
How is that any different in terms of science fiction wet dreams from our previously-reported Death Star plans that got rejected?
If you want to see this wasteful spending stopped, write your senators. If you are a dog lover (more than 400 dogs per year retire from military service according to the Washington Times), consider adopting a military service dog through programs like Saveavet.org.
Micah Wormley is a professional writing junior.