The FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) enacted by Congress required the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a comprehensive department-wide policy addressing civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations. This provision also required the Secretary of Defense to appoint a senior-level civilian to develop, coordinate, and oversee compliance with DoD policy related to civilian casualties.

The forthcoming DoD Instruction on Minimizing and Responding to Civilian Harm in Military Operations (DoD-I) – the Pentagon’s response to the NDAA requirement – presents a unique and critical opportunity for the U.S. to strengthen and systematize efforts to improve outcomes for civilians caught up in armed conflict. CIVIC and 12 other humanitarian and human rights NGOs, who seek improved military conduct to minimize civilian harm, have offered a series of concrete recommendations on how the impending policy can better safeguard civilian lives, property, and infrastructure in U.S. military operations and its security partnerships.

We expect DoD to use this opportunity to affirm and strengthen the U.S. military’s commitment to minimize and account for civilian harm, its willingness to rectify shortcomings in current policies and operations, and its interest in demonstrably and continuously taking practical steps to ensure the protection of civilians in all phases of operations.

Over-arching expectations for the forthcoming DoD-I, as well as specific recommendations addressing key issues affecting the protection of civilians, can be found below:

Image courtesy of David B. Gleason