More than 16 years after the first U.S. drone strike, the armed unmanned aerial vehicle remains key to American counterterrorism operations, and the Trump administration is expanding their use. But the weapon has long presented lawmakers, other U.S. leaders, and even our allies with problems of transparency, oversight, and strategy. Now, as administration officials roll back measures installed by their predecessors to deal with some of these issues, it is time to take a broad look at drones’ place in national security — and how best to use them.
The Trump administration is dialing up the frequency and global scope of drone strikes, has allowed military operators to have greater strike-decision authority, and expanded the CIA’s role and responsibilities in lethal strike operations. Each of these changes is occurring under a veil of secrecy, compounding challenges to legitimate and responsible use of armed drones that supports broader U.S. objectives.