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23 Jun, 2019 09:29

Brains for hire: Pentagon spends millions researching explosives & whale detection at German unis

Brains for hire: Pentagon spends millions researching explosives & whale detection at German unis

Universities all across Germany have been engaged in dual-purpose and military-related projects for the Pentagon, which has reportedly poured millions into the work, sometimes in violation of local laws that promote non-violence.

The US Department of Defense seems to have outsourced some of its scientific efforts to dozens of German universities, according to Der Spiegel. The magazine scrutinized a database on US government acquisitions and found out that $21.7 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on hundreds of scientific research grants since 2008.

Most of the projects, predictably, revolved around technology and natural sciences, and didn’t immediately relate to the military. But some of them were, indeed, eye-catching.

One grant, worth $1.72 million, was given to Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich to find a replacement for RDX, an explosive widely used since as early as 19th century. LMU, one of Germany’s best technology hubs, also received $3.7 million for 23 separate projects. 

Another center, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research, got $973,000 between 2013 and 2017 to develop infrared-based system allowing for whale detection. Der Spiegel believes that this technology – useless for the military at first glance – could be employed in submarine operations, calling it “a classic example of the dual-use thing.”

The Pentagon itself left no doubt as to why it was spending that money on German brains and know-how. Their research was crucial for “improvement of army programs or operations,” and helped ensure that there will be no “technological surprises for our nation,” according to some of the project descriptions.

Some of the funding came in violation of local laws, Der Spiegel writes. The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia requires that scholars contribute to “a sustainable, peaceful and democratic world” as well as to be “committed to peaceful goals.”

Nevertheless, many universities did engage in Pentagon-funded projects that had clear military applications.

Back in the US, the military also invests sizeable amounts of money in hi-tech projects, benefiting from its giant $686-billion budget. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most talked-about area where the Pentagon has been offering generous contracts to top companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

Also on rt.com Google to scrap controversial AI project with Pentagon after employees revolt – reports

Not everyone in the tech giants’ rank and file was appreciative of the idea of AI being used by armed forces. Thousands of Google employees rebelled against their company’s decision to bid for the Pentagon’s contracts, as did Microsoft staff

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