A recently published report from the U.S. Navy’s Naval Post Graduate School warns that a domestic shortage of military working dogs is threatening national security.
“Although working dogs are not an official part of the current defense industrial base, the low domestic production capacity of working dogs threatens some of the government’s capabilities to provide national security,” researchers wrote in the report. “Of the dogs within the current workforce, approximately 90% were bred overseas.”
Military working dogs are normally one of four breeds: German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd or Labrador Retriever. Many are imported from Europe.
Their tasks include detecting explosives, sniffing out drugs and tracking enemies.
“A lot of our science and technology for years has been trying to replicate the work these dogs do. Their olfactory glands are 10,000 times more sensitive than any piece of equipment we’ve been able to develop. So, the detection work they do, a dog finding explosives or drugs, that’s never going to be replaced,” Major Matthew Kowalski, commander of 341st Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, said, according to the report.
Sheila Goffe, president of the American Kennel Club, shed some light on the situation in her commentary on the report.
The federal government currently maintains approximately 5,000 working dogs across four departments — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State. But only 7 percent are bred domestically, and the rest are imported from Europe, the report found. Another estimated 5,000 working dogs are deployed across local law enforcement and private facilities, with a similar low percentage bred domestically.
The best dogs tend to be retained for use in Europe, where they are bred. And the U.S. finds itself in the position of competing against military peer competitors Russia and China for the same dogs in the same markets.
The supply of capable working dogs from foreign sources is continuing to tighten. The threat of terrorism and resulting demand for working dogs within Europe and around the world means there’s a growing shortage of even mediocre-quality foreign dogs available to protect the U.S.
The Department of Defense maintains a modest breeding program at its kennels at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, far from sufficient to meet domestic demand.
The report had several recommendations to resolve this security issues, the chief one being for the federal government to create a program/consortium by partnering with other government agencies and non-profit organizations to absorb or subsidize some or all of the costs necessary for a business to start a breeding program. As the current administration is tossing money at everything, why not something that will actually protect Americans?
Other ideas include restricting imports to spur on the domestic market, public-private partnerships, and reworking procurement procedures. However, there is one last option that the report did not address:
The first official semi-autonomous robot dogs were delivered to Tyndall Air Force Base March 22 for integration into the 325th Security Forces Squadron.
The purpose of the Quad-legged Unmanned Ground Vehicles, or Q-UGVs, is to add an extra level of protection to the base. The robot dogs, designed by Ghost Robotics and Immersive Wisdom, are the first of their kind to be integrated onto a military installation and one of many innovation-based initiatives to begin at Tyndall AFB, coined the “Installation of the Future.”
“As a mobile sensor platform, the Q-UGVs will significantly increase situational awareness for defenders,” said Mark Shackley, Tyndall AFB Program Management Office security forces program manager. “They can patrol the remote areas of a base while defenders can continue to patrol and monitor other critical areas of an installation.”
Features applied to the robot dogs allow for easy navigation on difficult terrains. The robot dogs can operate in minus 40-degree to 131-degree conditions and have 14 sensors to create 360-degree awareness. They are also equipped with a crouch mode that lowers their center-of-gravity and a high-step mode that alters leg mobility, among other features.
I also have a few thoughts on resolving this national security situation. The current occupant of the White House may be just the leader needed to spearhead the effort to increase the U.S. supply of fierce fighting dogs. Also, our current Secretary of Defense could focus on species diversity programs.DONATE
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