US Seeks Technology to Help Allies Avoid Bombing Civilians

By Aaron Boyd

May 29, 2019

The United States has a responsibility to ensure minimal civilian casualties during airstrikes, including those conducted by allies. To help with this, the Defense Department is looking for cutting-edge technologies that are just this side of classified to help international partners prevent incidental civilian injuries and death.

Per an April 2018 presidential order, it is incumbent on the U.S. to ensure military operations conducted by allies and coalition nations do not result in significant harm to civilians. To that end, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency is looking for technologies that can reduce collateral injuries and deaths during strikes—and, specifically, unclassified tech that can be shared with other countries.

It is the policy of the executive branch to facilitate ally and partner efforts, through United States sales and security cooperation efforts, to reduce the risk of national or coalition operations causing civilian harm,” according to a request for information issued Friday.

The RFI is asking for industry feedback on the best ways to achieve two goals:

Specifically, the RFI is looking for technological solutions that will directly reduce the potential for civilian casualties, such as advanced targeting. These would include “unclassified software and other tools that assist with targeting and collateral damage estimates for military operations, including technology capabilities that would assist in the effective use of air-launched weapons—[precision-guided munitions] or unguided bombs—and/or analyze potential collateral damage based on a specific weapon employment scenario.”

The document offers four hypothetical cases, such as a program that could be given to a partner nation’s air force that calculates the best way to use guided missiles to avoid civilian casualties in a specific scenario.

Related: How Many Civilians Die in Covert US Drone Strikes? It Just Got Harder to Say

Related: Protecting Civilians Still Matters in Great-Power Conflict

Related: In Coalition Ops, Civilian Protections Are Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

Another use case suggests technology that would help an intelligence analyst work out the best way to use an “air-launched weapon” to destroy or disable a target. That analysis would include the desired point of impact, probability of damage, angle of attack and fusing determinations, along with a calculation of potential harm to civilians.

Since these technologies will be shared with other countries, all potential solutions must be unclassified and not subject to international restrictions. To that end, the preliminary RFI is open to anyone with good ideas and is not restricted to clearance holders.

Along with specific technical capabilities, the Pentagon is also interested in hearing about “capacity to collect, track and analyze civilian casualty data and apply lessons learned to future operations.”

Interested parties can send a capabilities statement by 1 p.m. June 14. The procurement office will also be holding 45-minute in-person briefings on June 18 and 19.

Questions on the RFI are due by 1 p.m. June 6.


By Aaron Boyd // Aaron Boyd is an award-winning journalist currently serving as senior editor for technology and events at Nextgov. He primarily covers federal government IT contracting and cybersecurity issues affecting both civilian and defense agencies. As a lifelong nerd and policy wonk, he feels right at home covering the intersection of technology and policy in the nation's capital.

May 29, 2019

https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/05/pentagon-wants-tech-help-allies-avoid-bombing-civilians/157299/