Authors: Robert Matthews, Daniel L. Johnson, and Gretchen West
Better safe than sorry. Gretchen West (“Drone On,” May/ June 2015) argues that the growing U.S. drone industry “faces a major regulatory obstacle” in the form of the Federal Aviation Administration. She’s right that the agency needs to make some basic decisions about how to regulate drones—and soon, lest the United States surrender its technological edge.
On May 22, 2015, the Department of Justice released its guidance on the use of drones in the United States "to support kidnapping investigations, search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, and fugitive investigations" and outlines requirements for their use in regards to civil liberties, accountability, and protection of privacy.
The Obama administration's stated policy since 2011 has been to capture suspected terrorists—such as U.S. citizen Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh in Pakistan—rather than target them with drone strikes. However, as Micah Zenko points out, Al Farekh’s case is the rare exception and, since 2011, the United States has conducted an estimated 215 drone strikes, killing 1,271 individuals.
The State Department released a new policy on military drone exports, opening the door to possible sales to countries other than close U.S. allies. Micah Zenko discusses implications of the policy for drone proliferation.
On February 17, 2015, the State Department released the U.S. policy designed to govern the international sale, transfer, and use of U.S.-origin military and commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), also called drones. Related regulation on U.S. military transfers include the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, Arms Export Control Act, and the Foreign Assistance Act.
Micah Zenko, CFR’s Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action, and Sarah E. Kreps, associate professor of government at Cornell University, discuss the increased tactical use of unmanned aerial systems and the ramifications for U.S. foreign policy, as part of CFR's Academic Conference Call series.
The United States has now conducted 500 targeted killings, which have killed an estimated 3,674 people, including 473 civilians. However, as Micah Zenko points out, these operations have not diminished the size of targeted terrorist groups.
In July 2012, the European Union requested that the European Commission study the future of RPAS in Europe and how to integrate civil and commerical remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, a type of unmanned aircraft system, also called drones) into the European Aviation System and to prepare regulation for implementation by 2016. This report, written by experts from Trilateral Research & Consulting and Vrije Universiteit Brussel for the European Commission, provides independent analysis on privacy concerns associated with civil use of drones and was released November 7, 2014.
The pentagon last week acknowledged that the United States deployed armed drones to Iraq to provide surveillance and strike capabilities as the crisis with the Islamic State of Iraq and and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) continues to deteriorate. However, Micah Zenko points out that while numerous U.S. officials have called for the deployment of drones, these demands have not been accompanied by justifications, and there is still no precise goals for the deployment.
Janine Davidson discusses three misconceptions about the United States' increasing deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles: that they "cause" disproportionately high civilian casualties, that they inherently cost less than manned aircraft, and that most of them are weaponized (in fact, less than one percent carry weapons at any given time).
Serious questions about drone proliferation and the United States' role must be answered," writes Sarah Kreps. She discusses a recent report coauthored with Micah Zenko, including the threat and consequences of proliferation, and policies the Obama administration should implement to regulate the export and use of armed drones.
In this Council Special Report, Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko and Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Sarah Kreps argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones. By doing so, they predict, the United States will create standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The Obama administration should pursue a strategy that places clear limits on its own sale and use of armed drones lest these weapons proliferate and their use becomes widespread. These are the central findings of a new report from the Center for Preventive Action by CFR Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko and Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Sarah Kreps.
In July 2012, the European Union requested that the European Commission study the future of RPAS in Europe and how to integrate civil and commerical remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, a type of unmanned aircraft system, also called drones) into the European Aviation System. This document outlines the benefits for consumers and recommends the regulatory actions needed to expand use of drone technology beyond military uses.
Armed drones are starting to rule the skies, but the United States' monopoly over their use is fading. The Obama administration should nurture a regime to limit drone proliferation, similar to efforts to control nuclear weapons and missiles, write Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »