US DOD allocates over 6 billion for autonomous robots

The US military budget ending Sept. 30 allocated $6.04 billion for autonomous aircraft and just $261 million for unmanned ground vehicles.  The gap, said John Arquilla, a military strategist at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., a research university operated by the Navy, is “particularly troubling because a large percentage of our casualties were people driving vehicles blown up by I.E.D.’s.” If trucks in Afghanistan and Iraq had been robotic, he said, “casualties would have been cut by two-thirds over the last decade.”  The Future Combat System , a $340 billion project, was an ambitious effort to modernize the Army with both manned and unmanned vehicles. If accomplished, it would have been a significant step toward creating a robot ground army.

In a 2012 report, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, an advisory group, noted public fears that the move toward robot warriors would rapidly displace human judgment in warfare. Questions have also been raised about the morality — and strategic effectiveness — of their use.

Don Nimblett, a senior manager for Lockheed Martin’s combat maneuver systems, said “We’ve gone about as far as we can. At some point the government has to make it into a program and fund it.”

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