We at Tomdispatch love anniversaries. So how could we have forgotten DARPA’s for so many months? This very year, the Pentagon’s research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), turns 50 old. Happy birthday, DARPA! You were born as a response to the Soviet Union’s launching of the first earth-girdling satellite, Sputnik, which gave Americans a mighty shock. To prevent another “technological surprise” by the Soviets — or anybody else, any time, ever — the agency has grown into the Pentagon’s good right arm, always there to reach into the future and grab another wild idea for weaponization. Each year, DARPA now spends about $3 billion on a two-fold mission: “to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries.”
Next month, the agency will celebrate its anniversary with a conference that aims to “reflect on [its] challenges and accomplishments… over the past 50 years and to consider the Agency’s goals for the next 50 years.” What a super idea! Think of that. The next 50! If only Tomdispatch is still around — my brain well preserved and renewed (thanks to some nifty cutting-edge science from the TD Advanced Research Projects Lab) — to see War 2058 arrive and blow out those 100-year anniversary candles on the planet.
In the meantime, the future is now and Pentagon expert Nick Turse is at work — see below — on the latest developments in DARPA’s plans to help an overstretched military by reaching into the insect kingdom for its newest well weaponized recruits. The first larval Marines, perhaps. Ten-HUT! Unlike Americans at present, they should simply swarm to the recruiting offices.
It’s a strange (not to say hair-raising) subject for a journalist who has lately been covering the air war in Iraq and elsewhere for Tomdispatch. But the Pentagon’s urge to weaponize the wild kingdom is a topic Turse has long been familiar with and that he deals with powerfully in his remarkable new book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives. It is — believe me — the single most powerful look yet at all the subtle and complicated ways American lives have been militarized during the last decades. (For a short video discussion I had with Turse, click here.)
Oh, and here’s a suggestion for DARPA from a New Yorker. When you’re recruiting those bugs, don’t forget the roaches in my kitchen. They’ve been idle too long. Tom
Weaponizing the Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects
By Nick Turse
Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.