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Biotech Technology

Army's Cut of 'Future Soldier' May Impact Med-Tech 184

Posted by Zonk
from the we-have-the-technology dept.
docinthemachine writes "The U.S. Army has decided to axe its $500 Million 'Land Warrior Soldier of the Future' program. If this goes through, the loss of future medical technology will be enormous. Many do not realize the enormous amount of medical technology that trickles down from the military. The program was working on develops new HUDs, 3D vision systems, and bioarmor. Surgeons today are using this technology (via DARPA) to develop new robotic surgery, bioimplants, intelligent prosthetics and more." That's the downside. The reason for the program's cutting is fairly obvious: "Unfortunately, land Warrior is part of the Army's Future Combat System (FCS) Initiative. This is the roadmap for an unprecedented hi-tech modernization of the Army. What new? How about an air force of completely unmanned remote controlled fighters- it's in the budget! Unfortunately, the entire project is so far over budget it becomes a target for cuts. Originally at $60 billion, then $127B, recent estimates have balooned to $300 billion total cost (yes that's billion with a B) and some are calling it the biggest military boondoggle ever."
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Army's Cut of 'Future Soldier' May Impact Med-Tech

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  • not quite.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:32AM (#17172336) Homepage
    Originally at $60 billion, then $127B, recent estimates have balooned to $300 billion total cost (yes that's billion with a B) and some are calling it the biggest military boondoggle ever.

    At I believe it's still at least 100 billion short of the iraq invasion, which currently holds the record as the biggest military boondoggle. ever.
  • FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob Gelumph (715872) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:33AM (#17172340)
    Sounds to me like this is being reported by someone who wants to keep the program running, so they are trying to fud it up with implications that medical science will be harmed.
    If the U.S. didn't get into wars all the time, then wouldn't that both save lives and cost less money?
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:37AM (#17172374)
    So the questions have to be: if the results of this research are so amazing;

    1. why aren't companies like Pfizer investing in it? (probably they are?)
    2. why doesn't the US Government have the sense to invest directly in such things?

    Do we really have so little influence over the State, and the State is so stupid, that our best hope is to encourage the State to invest indirectly in such research by funding military development and hoping we get the sort of spin-off we're looking for?

    And even more significantly, have we ACCEPTED this state of affairs?

    This is OUR money that's being spent.
  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrbluze (1034940) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:52AM (#17172432) Journal
    Although historically medical advances were military in origin (major surgery mostly), the major diseases that confront wealthy societies have very little to do with combat. Take cancer or heart disease or diabetes as examples (although depleted uranium may be a way to generate cases) - we don't have any shortage of people with these complaints. Civilian society is driving medicine forward in these fields. What is more, vaccination against common fatal infections was arguably the greatest medical advance of the 20th century, and this did not come about because of the army. Just to give credence to your point :)
  • Re:Damnit. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:32AM (#17172568)
    I'm not a big fan of war, but that thing was pretty badass. Plans for all sorts of sci-fi tech, adaptive camoflauge, bio-monitoring, crazy HUD stuff in the helmet, basically a stillsuit underneath it all, liquid reactive body armor, all the way up to eventual exoskeletons... Shame to see it axed.


    That's why it's being axed.

    It's a load of horseshit.

    Have you seen the sorts of prototypes they've been showing off? They don't look like battlefield systems. They look like toys. Few looked actually deployable, and only a couple looked really useful.

    I'm a big fan of random, pointless research. But I don't like it being sold as something else. This is an out-of-control R&D project that's been light on the "D."
  • How about this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EyyySvenne (999534) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:34AM (#17172580)

    Many do not realize the enormous amount of medical technology that trickles down from the military.
    Many do not realize the enormous amount of medical technology that would emerge from spending $500 Million on it directly.
  • Re:Why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alba7 (100502) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:45AM (#17172616) Homepage
    Ok, the cold war was won by outspending the enemy through insane amounts of technology.
    But you have to realize that this really was psychological.
    And it works both ways.
    If you have nothing but money to go against will power then you will eventually go broke.
    Think of a suicide bomber as a very cheap and very smart self guided missile.
    Compare this to the millions of dollars a single cruise missile costs.
    If you want to win modern asymetric wars, then you will have to do what is necessary.
    Not what you fancy.

    http://www.exile.ru/2006-November-17/how_to_win_in _iraq.html [exile.ru]
  • Waste of money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lupine_stalker (1000459) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:51AM (#17172640)
    I wonder if it occurred to any of the that the approx. $300 billion could be used to provide food, medical supplies, clean water and decent housing to most of Africa, propelling America to a saint-like status, and eliminating most anti-american bias that has accumulated.
    Remember that Monty Python quote: "But what have the Romans given us?" "Roads" "Ok, besides that, what have the Romans given us?" "Sewerage systems." And so on.
    How would an extremist go about recruiting people to his cause when the country was the source of their food, water and etc. (not meaning to sound condescending).
  • by lixee (863589) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:31AM (#17172846)
    This is OUR money that's being spent.
    That's, in part, the answer to the infamous "Why do they hate us?" question.

    You can mod me down now.
  • fix funding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idlake (850372) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:35AM (#17172864)
    Just because the military and space exploration have traditionally funded research efforts that have "trickled down" doesn't mean that that's the best way of funding those efforts. What indirect funding through the military has accomplished in the past is to separate politicians from interfering directly research; that's been valuable, but it has also given us a bloated military and lots of wars, because that bloated military wants to do something.

    In the end, the best way of funding medical research is by giving funding to medical research, and the best way of making advances in computers, semiconductors, material science, nutrition, etc. is to fund those areas. We just need to figure out how to make that work politically without wasting money on gimmicks like the military or manned space exploration.
  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by legoburner (702695) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:37AM (#17172870) Homepage Journal
    Indeed, I would wager that $300Billion pumped directly into medical research would have given a hell of a lot more results than 'land warrior' trickle down.
  • by kinnell (607819) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:17AM (#17173046)

    1. why aren't companies like Pfizer investing in it?

    The trouble with investing in government programs is that the entire project can be ditched overnight for the benefit of someone's political agenda

  • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Saturday December 09, 2006 @09:10AM (#17173272) Journal
    1. why aren't companies like Pfizer investing in it? (probably they are?)

    Well, libertarian or not, you're going to have to accept that just because a technology is really cool, doesn't mean the private sector wants to invest in it, even if they got guaranteed patent rights to it. The risk/return/time horizon profile may not be justified compared to other investments.

    2. why doesn't the US Government have the sense to invest directly in such things?

    I suppose you could ask the same thing about the space program.
  • Re:Why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @09:29AM (#17173350)
    "HUDs? Cheap IED? There, you're out of your freaking mind. What do HUDs have to do with an exploding IED taking out a humvee?"

    The US government wants to load up the soldiers with more and more expensive hardware, while the 'bad guys' can kill them with a few bucks worth of explosives and a cheap cell-phone. Like managers everywhere, they have an expensive solution to the wrong problem.

    "So, you're suggesting the ability to acquire targets more reliably and quickly"

    Will allow them to kill more innocent civilians faster, thereby increasing the number of 'bad guys' they have to fight.

    "The truth of the matter is, if the US starts to fail to continue developing the technical edge of the military, it can and will fall."

    The US military _ALREADY HAS_ failed. It's a cold-war military in 21st century urban combat against guys with AK-47s, RPGs and cell-phones; didn't you even read about that recent US military war game where the officer playing the 'bad guys' took out the US fleet with fishing boats and anti-ship missiles that cost a tiny fraction of the amount the US government spent on their ships?

    You talk about how 'the US military can and will fail' when they can't even control Baghdad, for Bob's sake!
  • Re:not quite.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by twiddlingbits (707452) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:29AM (#17173610)
    No the invasion was VERY sucessful, the occupation and "mop-up" has been very tough going. I still wouldn't call it a military boondoggle, because we are engaging most of the enemy (terrorists) in that fight and we have not been attacked on US Soil. The biggest military boondoggle that comes to mind was Hitler not allowing the Armor he had in Reserve to be applied to repelling the Normandy (D-Day) invasion as he didn't think it was real. Releasing the armor would likely have crushed the invasion and the war would have continued longer (don't think the Nazi's would have won though).
  • by Net_fiend (811742) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @10:58AM (#17173786)
    No wait...we should have let Saddam get nukes...no wait...we should let President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get nukes so he can blow up the Israelis *then* us as he has said. Because we all know the Holocaust was a myth.http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/12/14/ira n.israel/ [cnn.com] And any who would help the 'Zionists' should be wiped off the face of the earth. http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/10/26/ahma dinejad/index.html/ [cnn.com] http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=9898/ [aljazeera.com]

    Because we should wait until something happens to us first...no wait http://www.september11news.com/111wtcreutersitaly. jpg/ [september11news.com] we did already. Maybe our country *is* wrong and we should listen to better leaders http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/09/20/chave z.un/index.html/ [cnn.com] as our leader is obviously the devil incarnate.

    Maybe we've lost too many soldiers and should pull out...no wait...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_toll#War _and_military_action/ [wikipedia.org]...we've lost more in those than any other time...wait wait...might we have lost close to as many in Katrina? Where are the war drums beating for those people? Where are the people complaining that those families still don't have homes to move back into?

    But I digress.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:03AM (#17173832) Homepage Journal
    The military is a terrible jobs program and overall R&D system. Of course if we're hiring lots of soldiers and improving medicine for necessary military operations, then we should harness that huge progressive activity for the greater good. But reversing the process, and putting job creation and R&D into the military just because it's got a budget, is a tremendous waste. Not to mention that funding and maintaining a huge military brings us closer to war, despite naive oversimplifications described as "deterrence". As history shows, and Einstein noticed, "you cannot simultaneously prepare for war and make peace". FWIW, that is not to say we don't need a substantial military in our dangerous and unpredictable world, but a giant one is provocative of enemies (including new ones), drives some people to expect "if we have it, we should use it, or we're wasting it", and then it gets in the way of better alternate solutions to problems: "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".

    We want more jobs, basic science and healthcare R&D. We clearly want to fund and operate it through the government, socialism, because we want everyone in the country to benefit equally from access and results, regardless of money and position. So instead we should spend that money directly on job creation and R&D. Simply offering more scholarships to med students, especially researchers, with most of that money would make most of the difference. Scholarships for recertifying mostly qualified foreign doctors would bring more foreign expertise, techniques, even whole theraputic systems into the country. Rather than throwing them away like we do now in order to maintain our artificially low supply vs increasing demand, just to keep privileged doctors rich and worshipped like gods. And much more could be spent increasing the National Guard for coping with increasing natural disasters like hurricanes / floods / wildfires and manmade toxic spills. Or invested in highschool level training and entrepreneur grants for locals to start re/construction companies, possibly trained with rotations through the Army Engineer Corps, or a more civilian one.

    But just spending $BILLIONS, $TRILLIONS on a military jobs/R&D program is a huge waste. We want to buy those things for our country's security. Better to do it without bloating our unaccountable military further, and actually get more productive, healthier citizens. Instead of more dead/wounded people and a higher bill.
  • Re:not quite.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:06AM (#17173860) Homepage Journal
    I still wouldn't call it a military boondoggle, because we are engaging most of the enemy (terrorists) in that fight and we have not been attacked on US Soil.

    The key mistake in this argument is the assumption that the people we're fighting in Iraq are people who would, if not so occupied, be flying planes into US buildings. Now, some of them probably are, but the best evidence -- given how al-Sadr, bin Laden et al are using the war as a recruiting tool -- is that most of them are people who, before the war, may not have liked the US very much, but didn't actively hate it enough to go out and try to kill Americans; even if those Americans were right next door, not halfway around the world!

    Before 9/11, there were plenty of Americans who didn't have any warm'n'fuzzy feelings about the Middle East, but they weren't in any rush to go and enlist to sit out on some chunk of sand in Saudi Arabia either. After 9/11, recruiting stations had lines around the block. If you can't see the parallel here, you're blind.
  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:19AM (#17173948) Journal
    So, what exactly is your plan for stopping Iran getting nukes? Destroy their two biggest enemies (al-queda and Saddam)?

    Since 9/11 the US has helped Bin Laden achieve his major war aim (US troops out of Saudi), destroyed Iran's enemies and given control of Iraq to Iranian allies.

    Maybe you'd better learn to look before you leap.
  • Re:Waste of money (Score:2, Insightful)

    by haakondahl (893488) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:30AM (#17174034)
    I wonder if it occurred to any of the that the approx. $300 billion could be used to provide food, medical supplies, clean water and decent housing to most of Africa, propelling America to a saint-like status, and eliminating most anti-american bias that has accumulated.


    This is a fantastic idea. We'll just let any old gang of thugs do whatever they want with our money, and we won't even pretend that we could do something about the organized murder and repression, even if we did care. Better yet, we could send legions of volunteers into "Africa". Even though most of these well-intentioned youngsters and age-ing hippies would simply be killed outright, that would still be better than spending money on nasty old war. And since we would make no distinction between governments in Africa, then we would aid genocide as well as democracy, since all life is precious, and value judgements have no place in covolized discourse, and without a military, we will rely exclusively upon "civilized discourse" of the sort which has aided and abetted the genocide in Sudan.

    Whoops, I mean Africa.

    Pacifism is for people who have no concept of evil. I am an agnostic, and I do not believe in God, but I have seen enough evil, and know that it is worth fighting against. The alternative is--well--the absurd yet commonly advocated scenario I gave in the first paragraph.

    If you truly are interested in "propelling America to Saint-like status", then get on board the anti-jihad program. Nothing keeps Muslims more miserable than Islamist oppression.

    And I hope nobody feels I am being overly prickly, or straying from the topic. Hopefully Freedom is not too right-wing a concept for slashdot. The post itself is pretty powerfully slanted to the left--this reply is slanted to the right--if, of course, you think freedom is a right-wing concept.
  • Re:not quite.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @12:46PM (#17174650) Homepage Journal
    I don't think he's claiming that America's actions caused the jihad. He's claiming that it has made it worse, or rather, that it may be making it worse by providing recruiting tools.

    It's based around the (debatable) idea that 9/11 was a one-shot with no follow-through. I think that part of what made 9/11 so horrible was that everybody was expecting it to be part of a campaign, one which was easy enough since the country is full of soft targets. I don't know if it didn't materialize because of the toppling of the Taliban, or increased enforcement (including Guantanamo and wiretapping), or just because they didn't plan well.

    At this point proving causation is just impossible. They have a lot of bones to pick with us, but the rhetoric is often obtuse and bragging. The real question is not what got us here, but where we go from here. Most people are agreed that simply dropping the Iraq war is not an option, including (I suspect) the grandparent poster. But "winning" in the usual sense may also not be an option, in which case you're kinda stuck between a rock and a very difficult policy decision.
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @02:17PM (#17175600)
    "If this goes through, the loss of future medical technology will be enormous."

    I think our medical technology in the fields of blunt trauma and prosthetics are "good enough" at this point. The Army can develop ways to better help you cope with getting shot or getting into a car collision, but they haven't touched the field of disease since they figured out how to avoid malaria and promote hygene. I don't see the Army curing cancer or AIDS or anything of the sort.

    Besides, a lot of the treatments developed by the Army nowadays are so expensive you'll need the budget of the Department of Defense to pay for it.
  • Re:not quite.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @05:33PM (#17177840) Journal
    I think you are forgetting about the Cole and several embassies in Africa. Or does it not count unless it is under your nose? I also think you are forgetting that the biggest AlQaeda recruiting tool before 9-11 was the way we left Somalia high and dry after losing a few guys.

    These guys don't respect weakness. They live by the sword and will not quit until they die by it.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:06PM (#17178130) Homepage Journal
    >we are engaging most of the enemy (terrorists) in that fight and we have not been attacked on US Soil.

    The attacks have happened in Spain and Britain instead. Both had troops in Iraq. Fighting in Iraq does not prevent terrorist attacks.

    It was one of our allies who acknowledged that the current President is "the best recruiting sergeant ever for al-Qaida".

    bin Laden's second in command, Zawahiri, publicly thanked God for the situation in Iraq.

    AQ strategist Yusuf al-Ayeri published a book arguing that the best thing that could possibly happen for the bin Ladenists would be a US invasion of Iraq.

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