Congress Moves to Keep Drone Warfare in Hands of CIA Instead of Pentagon

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Members of Congress have decided that the Obama administration should not go through with its plan to shift drone operations from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Department of Defense (DOD). To make their position clear, lawmakers included language in a classified annex of the new federal budget that restricts funding for the transition and places other limits as well.


The administration wanted the Pentagon to take over drone missions so that the CIA could refocus on intelligence gathering. President Barack Obama also felt that the change would lend more transparency to such missions by pulling them from the highly secretive intelligence agency.


But lawmakers objected to the switch, fearing the Defense Department would have trouble duplicating the CIA success in killing terrorists while minimizing civilian casualties, according to The Washington Post.


The Pentagon has been conducting its own drone strikes, sometimes resulting in high-profile failures.


Those preferring the CIA maintain its drone program cite recent strikes in Yemen by the U.S. military as examples for keeping the status quo. In December, a Pentagon strike killed as many as six civilians traveling in a wedding convoy, and last week, reports surfaced of an American strike that killed a Yemeni farmer.


It is mainly Yemen that Obama’s plan was expected to affect, given that the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA conduct overlapping drone operations in that country.


The New York Times reported that even before Congress added the budget provision, “the schedule for shifting control to the military was being revised—if not shelved.”


“DOD has some work to do,” a senior House Intelligence Committee staff aide told the Times. “It’s a lot more challenging than they thought.”


In addition to cutting off funding for the transition, lawmakers included language requiring DOD to prove it could do the job as well as the CIA before proceeding.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Lawmakers Seek to Stymie Plan to Shift Control of Drone Campaign from CIA to Pentagon (by Greg Miller, Washington Post)

Congress Restricts Drones Program Shift (by Eric Schmitt, New York Times)

Is CIA Too Good at Drone Assassination to Pass the Baton to the Pentagon? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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