December 6, 2007
The mission of the US Department of Defense (DoD) is “to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.” The latter portion of this mandate involves an extensive range of research activities, and, to the extent that such activities are directed at the study and development of medical countermeasures against prospective biological, chemical, and radiological weapons, they involve extensive animal use as well.
DoD comprises military divisions such as the Air Force, Army, and Navy, as well as a number of research-oriented sub-agencies and institutes. In contrast to other federal agencies, however, DoD does not promulgate or enforce regulations imposing third party testing or information collection requirements. Instead, DoD and its divisions maintain extensive intramural research and toxicological evaluation programs, while also providing more than $1 billion in extramural funding.
Animal Use Activities
- Army: The Army is the congressionally mandated lead division within DoD for infectious disease and chemical and biological defense research, making it the largest military user of animals. Army divisions involved in research and countermeasure development against biological agents (e.g., anthrax, viral weapons, etc.) include the US Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC), the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). Army divisions involved in research and countermeasure development against chemical agents (e.g., sarin, mustard gas, etc.) include USAMRMC, WRAIR, and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD). As candidate vaccines and other therapeutic products are developed, they are subject to extensive safety and efficacy testing as prescribed by the FDA.
- Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP): This DoD division, which is autonomous from the Army, specializes in pathology consultation, education, and research.
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): The mission of DARPA is to “maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use.” In 2002 alone, DARPA authorized the use of $500 million to develop and test new anthrax countermeasures.
- Navy: The Navy is heavily involved in the study of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
- Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS): This federal academic institution provides research support to DoD and the U.S. Public Health Service while training future generations of scientists in military and disaster medicine. Animal use at USUHS is principally focused on the study of infectious diseases.
Alternatives Policies & Actions
DoD reports to have “established a variety of initiatives and targeted programs … to promote alternative methods that will replace, reduce, and refine the use of animals. These programs are designed to target individual and institutional awareness by providing educational opportunities, professional training, and fiscal resources toward implementing the four Rs [including ‘responsibility’] approach to animal use.” Examples of such DoD initiatives include:
- Participation in the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM)
- Support for research, conferences, and workshops to develop alternatives to animal use
- Support for educational programs of the National Research Council’s Institute for Laboratory Animal Research
- Requiring consideration of 3Rs opportunities and methods during Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol review
- 1995 memorandum requiring that extramural contractors abide by DoD 3Rs policy
- Professional veterinary training in laboratory animal medicine
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) technician and laboratory animal science training