Report: Obama administration must reform drone policy

Current practices could lead to a backlash.

A new report says that the Obama administration must find ways to reform its policies governing the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles or risk the erosion of U.S national security interests.

The report, written by Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the “current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable” and could lead to a backlash from domestic and international interests. Zenko also says that extensive use of drones will encourage other states to begin developing their own technology and proliferate the use of these weapons.

“Without reform from within, drones risk becoming an unregulated, unaccountable vehicle for states to deploy lethal force with impunity,” Zenko writes.

Zenko had many suggestions for drone policy reform, some of which included limiting the number of targeted killings, increasing public accounting of signature strikes, reviewing the current authority structure for drone operations and providing additional information to the public, Congress and international bodies. He also encourages Congress to demand regular briefings on drone strikes, and withhold funding if the executive branch does not cooperate.

“The Obama administration can proactively shape U.S. and international use of armed drones in nonbattlefield settings through transparency, self-restraint, and engagement,” Zenko writes.

Recently, the Obama administration’s use of drones has come under severe fire from critics. Though Zenko’s policy suggestions have been criticized in some areas, it might be the beginning of a conversation regarding drone policy for Obama’s second term.

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