School of Public Policy Capstones

Publication Date



Over the past decade-and-a-half of continuous warfare by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Africa, lethal drone strikes have assumed a critical role in the expeditious, time-sensitive environments which U.S. military personnel and private security contactors find themselves operating in. Contentious since their inception, lethal drone strikes, as a tool of war and as a center-piece of U.S. counterinsurgency tactics, require significant policy changes in the form of increasing transparency for legislatures. Equally important, lethal drone strikes also require tactical revision in their application in order to effectively apply the methods of counter insurgency, nation-building, and relationship-development with the people and societies that these strikes affect most directly, particularly the agrarian communities in Southern Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan. Reforming the requirements for their usage, specifically by implementing specially-trained controllers on the ground before, during, and after every attack, in order to authorize, control, and conduct post-attack assessments will be the focus of this research paper. By leveraging the force-multiplier and influence of U.S. and allied personnel during counterinsurgency operations in accordance with operational and strategic goals of the United States, I seek to show that by helping to build and reinforce relationships of local populaces directly after an attack, lethal drone strikes may shed their contentious veil and adopt a reputation similar to traditional, conventional military assets. U.S. lethal drone policy will develop greater congruency with both legislative overseers as well as with the tactical, ground-level operators improving the techniques and procedures of lethal strikes, which should inevitably improve the policies behind this weapon of warfare.