New Infrastructure Focused On Mitigating Harm
Lopez, DOD News
September 6, 2022
Defense leaders have noted that the
mitigation of civilian harm during armed conflict is a strategic and
moral imperative. The Defense Department is putting that idea into
action with the publication of Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response
Action Plan, or CHMR-AP.
The plan details an array of efforts
the department will employ to reduce harm to civilians during combat
operations and exercises and respond appropriately when civilian
harm does occur.
A U.S. Marine patrols during the certification portion of
the Basic Combat Skills Course at U.S. Marine Corps Base
Camp Pendleton, California on November 20, 2015. (U.S.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans)
"This plan improves DOD's approach to mitigating and responding to
civilian harm by creating a reinforcing framework and processes and
institutions specifically designed to improve strategic outcomes and
optimize military operations," said Pentagon Press Secretary Air
Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder during a recent discussion with the
Development of the CHMR-AP came at the direction of
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who outlined his
expectations in a January 27, 2022 memorandum.
"Secretary Austin made clear that the protection of civilians is
fundamentally consistent with the effective, efficient and decisive
use of force in pursuit of U.S. national interests, and that our
efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian harm are a direct
reflection of U.S. values as well as a strategic and moral
imperative," Ryder said.
Ryder told reporters that Austin has
designated the secretary of the Army to serve as DOD's joint
proponent for CHMR-AP.
During a background briefing in
advance of Ryder's media engagement, a senior defense official
provided more details of CHMR-AP.
"The plan incorporates
lessons learned from recently completed studies, including DOD
Office of the Inspector General evaluations and independent reviews
of strikes that have resulted in civilian casualties," the official
said. "And while it's meant to be forward-looking, we're very much
informed by the lessons of those studies and the previous incidents
The plan provides a systemic approach to
considering, mitigating, assessing and responding to civilian harm
caused by military operations, the official said.
"The action plan, we think,
improves our ability to understand the causes of civilian harm and
continually [improves] our approach to civilian harm mitigation
response," the official said.
An important aspect of the
CHMR-AP is the establishment of a Civilian Protection Center of
Excellence, which is expected to achieve full operational capability
by fiscal year 2025, the official said.
"The center of
excellence is really intended to be a hub and a facilitator for the
DOD-wide analysis, learning and training related to civilian harm,"
the official said. "And we would envision it going even beyond that
to incorporate inputs from partners and other departments and
agencies as necessary."
It's expected that implementation of
the CHMR-AP will affect the full spectrum of military operations,
the official said. One of the most important areas will be improving
knowledge of the civilian environment for commanders so that they
have more comprehensive information available to inform targeting
The official also said that knowledge and insights
gathered by the center of excellence will affect operational
strategy and doctrine.
"As we operationalize this action
plan, ... civilian harm mitigation will be built into exercises,
training and professional military education going forward," he
said. "We envision the Civilian Protection Center of Excellence
actually leading much of that and ensuring that this type of
curriculum and these types of lessons learned are built into the
education process of our military officers and civilians."
Another key area of the CHMR-AP is
development of related data management processes and a standardized
system for the reporting of civilian harm that results from DOD
operations, the official said.
"This is the less glamorous
piece, but it has been pointed to by a number of the studies that
the lack of a centralized approach across the department has hurt
us," the official said. "The action plan envisions a centralized,
enterprise-wide data management platform that would handle all of
these instances, information, and really be the foundation that
allows greater collection, sharing and analysis."
United States military almost never operates alone, successful
implementation of the CHMR-AP will involve involvement and input of
partner nations and allies the U.S. might fight alongside, the
"We have a number of allies and partners who
are keen to understand our best practices and provide some of their
own in this process," he said. "This really becomes an effort across
more than just the Department of Defense, but across our like-minded
allies and partners."
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