Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) Reducing and Mitigating Civilian Casualties: Enduring Lessons
May 15, 2013 in Department of Defense
The United States has long been committed to upholding the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and minimizing collateral damage, which includes civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and unintended damage to civilian objects (facilities, equipment, or other property that is not a military objective). In support of these goals, the U.S. military developed capabilities for precision engagements and accurately identifying targets, such as the development of refined targeting processes and predictive tools to better estimate and minimize collateral damage. These capabilities permitted the conduct of combat operations with lower relative numbers of civilian casualties compared to past operations. However, despite these efforts, and while maintaining compliance with the laws of war, the U.S. military found over the past decade that these measures were not always sufficient for meeting the goal of minimizing civilian casualties when possible. Resulting civilian casualties ran counter to U.S. desires and public statements that the United States did “everything possible” to avoid civilian casualties, and therefore caused negative second-order effects that impacted U.S. national, strategic, and operational interests.