Pentagon warns military against mail-in DNA tests

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The Pentagon is warning military members against using consumer mail-in DNA tests over potential risks, a Department of Defense spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. 

The Department of Defense is advising service members to instead receive DNA result information from a “licensed professional,” spokeswoman Elissa Smith said.

“We want to ensure all service members are aware of the risks of Direct to Consumer (DTC) genetic testing,” Smith said. “The unintentional discovery of markers that may affect readiness could affect a service member’s career, and the information from DTC genetic testing may disclose this information.”

She added that the information provided by private companies “may or may not” be reliable results. 

Such DNA kits are sold by companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry and have become popular holiday gifts in recent years. 

The Pentagon cautioned service members about the consumer DNA tests in a memo last week, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Hill on Thursday.

The memo was first reported by Yahoo News on Monday. 

“Exposing sensitive genetic information to outside parties poses personal and operational risks to Service members,” reads the memo signed by Joseph Kernan, the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, and James Stewart, the assistant secretary of Defense for manpower.

“These [direct-to-consumer] genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo continues. 

The memo also reportedly said some DNA kit companies have targeted military personnel with discounts. 

A spokeswoman for Ancestry told The Hill the company has not targeted military personnel with discounts. 

“Protecting our customers’ privacy and being good stewards of their data is Ancestry’s highest priority,” she added. “Ancestry does not share customer DNA data with insurers, employers, or third-party marketers.”

A spokesperson for 23andMe said the company takes “the utmost efforts to protect” its customers’ privacy, and said its results “are highly accurate.”

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

Updated at 11:57 a.m.

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