By: Daniel R. Mahanty and Rita Siemion

For all the time and attention that the Defense Department has rightly spent addressing civilian casualties, no single official at the Pentagon has ever been formally charged with overseeing the many challenges involved with proactively preventing civilian casualties and assessing and responding to reports of harm. And while many of the important decisions related to preventing and investigating civilian casualties are handled at the discretion of commanders in the field, the absence of a central authority for developing and disseminating policy on civilian casualties across the entire Defense Department has led to an inconsistent approach to managing allegations and investigations, estimating and tracking casualties, communicating with NGOs and the public, and compensating victims and their family members when casualties occur.