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Research Report

DRONE PROLIFERATION: Policy Choices for the Trump Administration

Elisa Catalano Ewers
Lauren Fish
Michael C. Horowitz
Alexandra Sander
Paul Scharre
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2017
Pages: 29
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep06354

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. 1-1)
  3. (pp. 2-3)
  4. (pp. 4-4)

    More than 30 nations already have or are developing armed drones, and at least 90 nations, as well as some non-state actors, possess unarmed drones. The continued spread of uninhabited aircraft, or drones, introduces new dynamics to international engagements that heighten uncertainty and confront well-understood behaviors, especially in the context of crisis stability, escalation dynamics, and sovereignty norms. To get ahead of these issues, the United States has begun to craft complementary unilateral and multilateral policies to respond to drone proliferation and shape their use in ways that align with U.S. interests.

    Further drone proliferation is inevitable. The technology has...

  5. (pp. 5-6)

    CNAS’ Proliferated Drones project identified five key objectives that drive the U.S. policy response to drone proliferation:

    1. Preserving legal and political freedom of action for U.S. drone use.

    2. Maintaining the U.S. military’s technological advantage over potential competitors.

    3. Improving the military capabilities of key partners and allies.

    4. Preventing or slowing the spread of potentially harmful drone technology.

    5. Shaping the behavior of how others use drones.

    Some of these objectives are in tension, and current U.S. policies do not adequately resolve those tensions. In two significant policy areas – drone exports and transparency on U.S. drone strikes – the United States has...

  6. (pp. 6-13)

    Current U.S. policies, particularly on drone exports, are driven by history and bureaucratic inertia. Many policies made sense in a world where drones were available to only a small number of actors. Other policies originally were intended to prevent proliferation, but make little sense today in a world where drone technology is widely available already. As drones have proliferated, the United States has not yet adequately adjusted to the challenges they bring.

    Drone development is rooted in the Cold War demand for persistent surveillance of Soviet capabilities, which fueled interest in drones within the Air Force and intelligence communities.¹ The...

  7. (pp. 14-16)

    U.S. policy must not only respond to today’s problems – it should be flexible enough to adapt to tomorrow’s challenges. Many of today’s policy dilemmas are due to the fact that drone technology has proliferated and evolved since the MTCR’s founding, sometimes in surprising ways. Policymakers must anticipate emerging challenges in order to ensure they are developing policies that best safeguard U.S. interests in a rapidly changing area.

    Drone technology continues to advance, driven by both military and commercial investment. This not only affects drones’ capabilities and military relevance but also potentially reshapes proliferation in terms of who can purchase,...

  8. (pp. 17-18)

    The United States cannot stop drones from proliferating abroad, nor can it stop nefarious actors from using drones in harmful ways. The United States does have tools at its disposal, however, to help protect American national security interests in a world of proliferated drones. The Trump administration should adapt U.S. policy to help achieve U.S. objectives: preserving legal and political freedom of action for U.S. drone use; maintaining the U.S. military’s technological advantage over potential competitors; improving the military capabilities of key partners and allies; preventing or slowing the spread of potentially harmful drone technology; and shaping the behavior of...

  9. (pp. 19-21)
  10. (pp. 22-25)
  11. (pp. 26-27)