Technology & Trade

Recommendations and Report of the Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy

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The Stimson Task Force on US Drone Policy released its report and recommendations on June 26 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. 

The report looks at the military and national security benefits of UAV technologies, analyzes the current US approaches to UAV development and export, and seeks to contextualize the strategic questions relating to the use of lethal UAVs outside traditional battlefields. The report outlines eight concrete recommendations designed to ensure that US drone policy is transparent, accountable and consistent with long-term US national security goals, foreign policy ideals, and commercial interests.

The eight recommendations provide detailed and specific steps to achieve a more transparent US policy that can account for changes and developments in drone technology. These recommendations serve as guidance for the Obama Administration in order to develop a cohesive and comprehensive US approach to this technology and to better set international precedent on the use and proliferation of these systems. Final recommendations include:

  • Conducting a rigorous strategic review and cost-benefit analysis of the role of lethal drones in targeted counterterrorism strikes
  • Improving transparency through the release of a detailed report from the administration explaining the legal basis for US conduct of targeted killings; the approximate number, location and organizational affiliations of those killed by drone strikes; the identities of civilians killed as well as the number of strikes carried out by the military versus the CIA.
  • Transferring general responsibility for carrying out lethal drone strikes from the Central Intelligence Agency to the military
  • Developing robust oversight and accountability mechanisms, including an independent commission to review drone policy and past strikes
  • Fostering the development of appropriate international norms for the use of lethal force outside traditional battlefields
  • Assessing drone-related technological developments and likely future trends and creating an interagency research and development strategy
  • Reviewing and reforming drone-related export control rules and Federal Aviation Administration rules

The task force was created in response to President Barack Obama’s call to examine options to address concerns on US drone use. On May 23, 2013, President Obama delivered a major speech at National Defense University, in which he committed to “review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress.”

The Task Force, chaired by Gen. John P. Abizaid (Ret.) and Rosa Brooks, also included: Lt. Gen. David Barno, John B. Bellinger III, Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., Missy Cummings, Janine Davidson, Peter Lichtenbaum, Philip Mudd and Jeffrey Smith, all former senior government officials from the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Department of State and Department of Commerce.

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