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Report and Recommendations from the Stimson Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy

Later this morning, the Stimson Center’s Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy is scheduled to formally release a report and series of recommendations to the Obama Administration on the current and future use and oversight of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). [Full disclosure: I was part of one of the “working groups” that gave informal advice to the task force.] The full report, which is available here, is worth reading. But the takeaway is a series of eight specific recommendations. According to the report, the Obama Administration should:

  1. Conduct a strategic review of the role of lethal UAVs in targeted counterterrorism strikes;
  2. Improve transparency in targeted UAV strikes;
  3. Transfer general responsibility for carrying out lethal UAV strikes from the CIA to the military;
  4. Develop more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of hot battlefields;
  5. Foster the development of appropriate international norms for the use of lethal force outside traditional battlefields;
  6. Assess UAV-related technological developments and likely future trends, and create an interagency research and development strategy geared toward advancing US national security interests in a manner consistent with US values;
  7. Review and reform UAV-related export control rules and FAA rules, with a view to minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the development of the US UAV industry, while still safeguarding US national security interests and ensuring responsible UAV development and use; and
  8. Accelerate the FAA’s efforts to meet the requirements of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Bill.

After and in light of Monday’s disclosure of the OLC memo with respect to the targeted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the Task Force report provides a useful jumping-off point for more general steps that the Obama Administration should immediately begin pursuing. Folks won’t necessarily agree with all of its recommendations (or believe that they go far enough), but given the Task Force’s bipartisan, high-level composition, its recommendations will be ignored at its readers’ peril.

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About the Author

is co-editor-in-chief of Just Security. Steve is a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law. Follow him on Twitter (@steve_vladeck).