Congress is worried that robot dogs with machine guns will be bounding onto the battlefield in the near future.

During last week’s debate over the annual defense authorization bill, House lawmakers inserted language in the massive military policy measure to require a new assessment from the Defense Department on “the threat of rifle-toting robot dogs used by China” in potential future conflicts.

The issue has gained public attention in recent weeks after Chinese military officials showed off armed robotic quadrupeds during recent military drills with Cambodia.

In a video released by state-run CCTV on May 25, a 110-pound dog-like robot is shown carrying and firing an automatic rifle. A spokesman for the Chinese military said the robot, which can perform many tasks autonomously, could “serve as a new member in our urban combat operations.”

Drone warfare is not new to the U.S. or foreign militaries, and the American military for years has experimented with robot dogs for use in reconnaissance and unit support roles.

But the idea of a robot version of man’s best friend shooting at American soldiers was enough to prompt House members to demand that the secretary of defense investigate “the threat such use poses to the national security of the United States.”

The amendment was adopted without objection from any members of the chamber. But it will have to survive negotiations with senators on the broader defense measure in coming months before it can become law.

The Senate is expected to hold floor debate and make possible amendments to its draft of the legislation in the next few weeks.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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