WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is warning members of the military to avoid buying any direct to consumer (DTC) genetic test kits because it could expose personal information and create security issues, according to a memo obtained by Yahoo! News.
In a letter Friday from the office of the Secretary of Defense, officials explained that they've learned some companies have been encouraging personnel to purchase kits through military discounts.
The memo details how these test kits, which promise to give insights into health matters and ancestry, are from third parties and could possibly be "exploiting the use of genetic data for questionable purposes."
There have been a growing number of companies like 23andMe and Ancestry selling kits that can profile consumers' DNA just by analyzing their saliva.
In the memo, the Pentagon warned that many DNA test kits available for purchase in stores and online are not reviewed by the FDA before sale which means "they may be sold without independent analysis to verify the claims of the seller."
The Department of Defense believes that DTC genetic services "pose more risk" to DoD personnel, over that of the public, due to service members' requirement that they disclose medical information affecting what is called Individual Medical Readiness. The military uses the term "readiness" do determine the health of service personnel and how fit they are to serve and deploy. As the Pentagon memo states, "testing outside of the Military Health System is unlikely to include a clear description of this risk."
"Until notified otherwise, DoD military personnel are advised to refrain from the purchase and/or use of DTC genetic services," the memo states.
As Yahoo! News reports, the Pentagon has its own massive repository of DNA, pointing out that some may find it ironic that the Pentagon now appears to recognize this potential threat. In that report, Yahoo! News points out that after the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon began collecting DNA from military members on a mandatory basis so that those killed in conflict could be identified.
The U.S. military has also used DNA testing to confirm the deaths of Islamic State group leaders, such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by the U.S. military earlier in 2019.