Press Briefing on U.S. Department of Defense Civilian Casualty Policies and Procedures

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In this January 27, 2022, virtual press briefing, researchers from the RAND Corporation relate findings from their independent assessment of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) standards, processes, procedures, and policies relating to civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations. Researchers describe their evaluation of DoD’s efforts to assess, investigate, and respond to civilian harm, as well as DoD’s resourcing and structure to address such issues. Among other findings, their research found that lessons from civilian harm incidents need to be aggregated, analyzed and disseminated across the military through pre-deployment training, planning, professional military education, exercises, scenario-based workshops — all of the ways the military improves its mission effectiveness in other areas.

Lead authors Michael J. McNerney and Gabrielle Tarini then take questions from members of news media. While the RAND report did not include assessments of specific incidents where U.S. military operations resulted in civilian casualties, McNerney and Tarini discussed how findings from their report can help explain why patterns of civilian harm in U.S. military operations persist. In response to questions, they point to the role confirmation bias plays in military decision-making, and the lack of permanent positions or mechanisms within DoD to examine and learn from civilian casualty incidents.

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