Executive Order: Policy on Pre- and Post-Strike Measures to Address Civilian Casualties in U.S. Operations Involving Use of Force

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2016

By the authority vested in me as President by the
Constitution and the laws of the United States of America,
I hereby direct as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. United States policy on civilian
casualties resulting from U.S. operations involving the use
of force in armed conflict or in the exercise of the Nation's
inherent right of self-defense is based on our national
interests, our values, and our legal obligations. As a Nation,
we are steadfastly committed to complying with our obligations
under the law of armed conflict, including those that address
the protection of civilians, such as the fundamental principles
of necessity, humanity, distinction, and proportionality.
The protection of civilians is fundamentally consistent
with the effective, efficient, and decisive use of force in
pursuit of U.S. national interests. Minimizing civilian
casualties can further mission objectives; help maintain the
support of partner governments and vulnerable populations,
especially in the conduct of counterterrorism and
counterinsurgency operations; and enhance the legitimacy and
sustainability of U.S. operations critical to our national
security. As a matter of policy, the United States therefore
routinely imposes certain heightened policy standards that are
more protective than the requirements of the law of armed
conflict that relate to the protection of civilians.
Civilian casualties are a tragic and at times unavoidable
consequence of the use of force in situations of armed conflict
or in the exercise of a state's inherent right of self-defense.
The U.S. Government shall maintain and promote best practices
that reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties, take
appropriate steps when such casualties occur, and draw lessons
from our operations to further enhance the protection of
Sec. 2. Policy. In furtherance of U.S. Government efforts
to protect civilians in U.S. operations involving the use of
force in armed conflict or in the exercise of the Nation's
inherent right of self-defense, and with a view toward enhancing
such efforts, relevant departments and agencies (agencies) shall
continue to take certain measures in present and future

(a) In particular, relevant agencies shall, consistent
with mission objectives and applicable law, including the law of
armed conflict:
train personnel, commensurate with their
responsibilities, on compliance with legal obligations
and policy guidance that address the protection of
civilians and on implementation of best practices that
reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties,
including through exercises, pre-deployment training,
and simulations of complex operational environments
that include civilians;
develop, acquire, and field intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance systems that, by
enabling more accurate battlespace awareness,
contribute to the protection of civilians;
(iii) develop, acquire, and field weapon systems and
other technological capabilities that further enable
the discriminate use of force in different operational
take feasible precautions in conducting attacks
to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties, such
as providing warnings to the civilian population
(unless the circumstances do not permit), adjusting
the timing of attacks, taking steps to ensure military
objectives and civilians are clearly distinguished,
and taking other measures appropriate to the
circumstances; and
conduct assessments that assist in the
reduction of civilian casualties by identifying risks
to civilians and evaluating efforts to reduce risks to
(b) In addition to the responsibilities above, relevant
agencies shall also, as appropriate and consistent with mission
objectives and applicable law, including the law of armed
review or investigate incidents involving
civilian casualties, including by considering relevant
and credible information from all available sources,
such as other agencies, partner governments, and
nongovernmental organizations, and take measures to
mitigate the likelihood of future incidents of
civilian casualties;
acknowledge U.S. Government responsibility for
civilian casualties and offer condolences, including
ex gratia payments, to civilians who are injured or to
the families of civilians who are killed;
(iii) engage with foreign partners to share and learn
best practices for reducing the likelihood of and
responding to civilian casualties, including through
appropriate training and assistance; and

maintain channels for engagement with the
International Committee of the Red Cross and other
nongovernmental organizations that operate in conflict
zones and encourage such organizations to assist in
efforts to distinguish between military objectives
and civilians, including by appropriately marking
protected facilities, vehicles, and personnel, and by
providing updated information on the locations of such
facilities and personnel.
Sec. 3. Report on Strikes Undertaken by the U.S.
Government Against Terrorist Targets Outside Areas of Active
Hostilities. (a) The Director of National Intelligence (DNI),
or such other official as the President may designate, shall
obtain from relevant agencies information about the number of
strikes undertaken by the U.S. Government against terrorist
targets outside areas of active hostilities from January 1,
2016, through December 31, 2016, as well as assessments of
combatant and non-combatant deaths resulting from those strikes,
and publicly release an unclassified summary of such information
no later than May 1, 2017. By May 1 of each subsequent year, as
consistent with the need to protect sources and methods, the
DNI shall publicly release a report with the same information
for the preceding calendar year.
(b) The annual report shall also include information
obtained from relevant agencies regarding the general sources
of information and methodology used to conduct these assessments
and, as feasible and appropriate, shall address the general
reasons for discrepancies between post-strike assessments from
the U.S. Government and credible reporting from nongovernmental
organizations regarding non-combatant deaths resulting from
strikes undertaken by the U.S. Government against terrorist
targets outside areas of active hostilities.
(c) In preparing a report under this section, the
DNI shall review relevant and credible post-strike all-source
reporting, including such information from nongovernmental
sources, for the purpose of ensuring that this reporting is
available to and considered by relevant agencies in their
assessment of deaths.
(d) The Assistant to the President for National Security
Affairs may, as appropriate, request that the head of any
relevant agency conduct additional reviews related to the
intelligence assessments of deaths from strikes against
terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities.
Sec. 4. Periodic Consultation. In furtherance of the
policies and practices set forth in this order, the Assistant
to the President for National Security Affairs, through the
National Security Council staff, will convene agencies with
relevant defense, counterterrorism, intelligence, legal,
civilian protection, and technology expertise to consult on
civilian casualty trends, consider potential improvements to
U.S. Government civilian casualty mitigation efforts, and, as
appropriate, report to the Deputies and Principals Committees,
consistent with Presidential Policy Directive 1 or its
successor. Specific incidents will not be considered in this
context, and will continue to be examined within relevant chains
of command.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) The policies and
practices set forth above are not intended to alter, and shall
be implemented consistent with, the authority and responsibility
of commanders and other U.S. personnel to execute their mission
as directed by the President or other appropriate authorities,
which necessarily includes the inherent right of self-defense
and the maintenance of good order and discipline among
U.S. personnel. No part of this order modifies the chain
of command of the U.S. Armed Forces or the authority of
U.S. commanders.
(b) No part of this order modifies priorities in the
collection of intelligence or the development, acquisition, or
fielding of weapon systems and other technological capabilities.
(c) No part of this order shall prejudice or supplant
established procedures pertaining to administrative or criminal
investigative or judicial processes in the context of the
military justice system or other applicable law and regulation.
(d) The policies set forth in this order are consistent
with existing U.S. obligations under international law and are
not intended to create new international legal obligations; nor
shall anything in this order be construed to derogate from
obligations under applicable law, including the law of armed
(e) This order is not intended to, and does not, create
any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at
law or in equity by any party against the United States, its
departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or
agents, or any other person.


July 1, 2016.

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