Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Growing Investment in Robot Army

The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat. Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.

The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. The costs of that transformation will help drive the Defense Department's budget up almost 20 percent, from a requested $419.3 billion for next year to $502.3 billion in 2010, excluding the costs of war. The annual costs of buying new weapons is scheduled to rise 52 percent, from $78 billion to $118.6 billion.

Despite the obstacles, Congress ordered in 2000 that a third of the ground vehicles and a third of the deep-strike aircraft in the military must become robotic within a decade. If that mandate is to be met, the United States will be spending many billions of dollars on military robots by 2010.

The Pentagon today owes its soldiers $653 billion in future retirement benefits that it cannot pay. Robots, unlike old soldiers, do not fade away. The cost of a soldier from enlistment to interment is about $4 million today and growing, according to a Pentagon study. Robot soldiers are supposed to cost a tenth of that or less.

Berkshire Eagle Online - Today's Headlines


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