Pentagon Warns Military Personnel Against At-Home DNA Tests


In an internal memo, Pentagon leadership has urged military personnel not to take mail-in DNA tests, warning that they create security risks, are unreliable and could negatively affect service members’ careers.

The letter, which was reported by Yahoo News, was sent on Friday. It does not name any particular DNA testing companies, but counsels broadly against buying ancestry and health tests promoted with military discounts and other military incentives.

Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that the memo had been sent.

“We want to ensure all service members are aware of the risks of Direct to Consumer (DTC) genetic testing,” he told The New York Times over email.

Over the past decade, millions of Americans have purchased DNA tests through companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry with the hopes of connecting with relatives, finding out more about their family origins and learning about how their DNA could affect their chances of developing certain health conditions. In recent years, the tests have become popular holiday gifts.

The memo was written by Joseph D. Kernan, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, and James N. Stewart, the assistant secretary of defense for manpower. They warn that the tests “could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission.”

The memo does not get into what specifically these risks might be, and Commander Robertson declined to elaborate.

In a statement, a spokeswoman from 23andMe said that the company took great care to protect customers’ privacy.

“Our FDA-authorized health reports have been tested to be over 99% accurate,” she said.All of our testing is done in the U.S., and we do not share information with third parties without separate, explicit consent from our customers.”

An Ancestry spokeswoman said that the company had not targeted military personnel with discounts. “Ancestry does not share customer DNA data with insurers, employers, or third-party marketers,” she added.

The Pentagon does not advise against genetic testing altogether. But service members were encouraged to get genetic information “from a licensed professional rather than a consumer product,” Commander Robertson said.



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