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I read the following on the internet:

Working for DoD contractors could give a very fat paycheck. However, there're ethical issues involved. If you decide to work for them, make sure to make it clear you'll work for defensive capabilities, not offensive ones. There're a lot of other areas DoD needs people to build up their defensive programs, and these should be legit from an ethical standpoint.

Is inventing "defensive" biological weapons right livelihood?

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  • What's wrong with you? You never ask such questions and you know the answer already. – Tranquility Dec 21 '20 at 0:23
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It's clear from the sutta below that trade or livelihood related to weapons is forbidden, or at least, very strongly discouraged, for lay followers.

From AN 5.177:

“Mendicants, a lay follower should not engage in these five trades.

What five?

Trade in weapons, living creatures, meat, intoxicants, and poisons.
Satthavaṇijjā, sattavaṇijjā, maṃsavaṇijjā, majjavaṇijjā, visavaṇijjā

A lay follower should not engage in these five trades.”

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The question is formulated in such a way that it doesn't provide factual information about what this development entails, and erroneously categorizes this as "weapons research".

The DoD is prohibited from developing, or outsourcing the development of, biological weapons. The US (and most of the world) signed the Biological Weapons Convention. As stated in Article 1 of the BWC:

"Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

(1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."

The United States Congress passed the Bioweapons Anti-Terrorism Act in 1989 to implement the Convention. The law applies the Convention's convent to countries and private citizens, and criminalizes violations of the Convention.

The clause "no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes" refers to a concept called Biodefense: a system of planned actions to counter and reduce the risk of biological threats and to prepare, respond to, and recover from them if they happen.

Products currently being produced or under development through military research include:

  • Vaccines to prevent tularemia, Q fever, Rift Valley fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Eastern and Western equine encephalitis, chikungunya fever, Argentine hemorrhagic fever, the botulinum toxicoses, and anthrax;
  • Antitoxins for diseases such as botulism;
  • Human immune globulin preparations (passive antibody protection) against various bacteria and viruses; and
  • Antiviral drugs against multiple viral agents.
  • Some vaccines also have applicability for diseases of domestic animals (e.g., Rift Valley fever and Venezuelan equine encephalitis). In addition, vaccines are provided to persons who may be occupationally exposed to such agents (e.g., laboratory workers, entomologists, and veterinary personnel) throughout government, industry, and academe.

USAMRIID also provides diagnostic and epidemiological support to federal, state, and local agencies and foreign governments. Examples of assistance rendered to civilian health efforts by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) include:

  • The massive immunization program instituted during the Venezuelan equine encephalitis outbreak in the Americas in 1971;
  • The laboratory support provided to the U.S. Public Health Service during the outbreak of Legionnaire's disease in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976;
  • The management of patients suspected of having African viral hemorrhagic fever in Sweden during the 1980s;
  • International support during the outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Mauritania in 1989;
  • Assistance with the outbreak of Ebola infections among monkeys imported to Reston (Virginia) in 1990 (→ Reston virus); and
  • Epidemiological and diagnostic support to the World Health Organization–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention field team that studied the Ebola outbreak in Zaire in 1995 (→ Zaire ebolavirus).

These developments are clearly not weapons. They are medications and antidotes.

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