Armed Conflict

Pentagon Releases Instruction on Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response

Caleb Benjamin
Thursday, December 21, 2023, 4:13 PM

Defense Secretary Austin directed the writing of the instruction in a January 2022 memo.

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On Dec. 21, the Department of Defense released the “DOD Instruction on Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response.” The document establishes new Pentagon policies and procedures on civilian harm mitigation and response (CHMR) and delineates who bears responsibility for CHMR within the U.S. military going forward. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III directed the writing of an instruction on CHMR in a January 2022 memo. The instruction follows the August 2022 publication of the Pentagon’s “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan.” 

The document orders the U.S. military to identify improvements to existing battlespace awareness capabilities and weapons systems that can be made to enable more discriminate use of force. The instruction also states the Defense Department must develop professional tracks related to CHMR and train and educate existing Pentagon personnel on CHMR issues. 

The document instructs the U.S. military to conduct and archive thorough assessments of civilian harm that may have resulted from U.S. military operations, document and disseminate lessons learned regarding CHMR, apply CHMR policies when conducting operations with other countries and non-state armed groups, integrate CHMR into security cooperation, and engage with civil society organizations working on CHMR, among other requirements.

You can read the report here or below:

Caleb Benjamin was Lawfare's fall 2023 editorial intern. He holds a B.A. with high honors in government from Dartmouth College.

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