Secrecy News

DoD Use of Domestic Drones Complies with Law, IG Says

The domestic use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones) by the Department of Defense in support of civil authorities has been conducted in accordance with law and policy, the DoD Inspector General said in a 2015 report of an evaluation that was released last week.

“DoD is fully compliant with laws, regulations, and national policies for UAS support to civil authorities,” the DoD IG report said.

“We found no evidence that any DoD entity using UAS’s or associated PED [processing, exploitation, and dissemination] in support of domestic civil authorities, to date, has violated or is not in compliance with all statutory, policy, or intelligence oversight requirements.”

Oddly, that conclusion was marked “For Official Use Only.”  See Evaluation of DoD Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for Support to Civil Authorities, DoD Inspector General report DODIG-2015-097, March 20, 2015. The partially redacted report was released last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

DoD support to civil authorities using drones can be provided, given proper authorization, for domestic emergencies, support to law enforcement, or to provide added security for high-profile “special events.”

Domestic use of drones by DoD for such purposes is comparatively rare. The DoD Inspector General reported that between 2006 and 2015 there were “less than twenty events that could be categorized as DoD UAS support to domestic civil authorities,” and that that number included “both approved and disapproved requests.”

The Department of Defense provided updated Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems last year in a February 17, 2015 policy memorandum.

“Armed DoD UAS may not be used in the United States for other than training, exercises, and testing purposes,” the memo said.