September 18, 2023

Representatives Lee & Burgess Introduce Drone Reform Act to Ensure Accountability in Military Drone Strikes

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) and Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) introduced the Drone Reform Act (H.R. 5442), bipartisan legislation that ensures a process for accountability when military drone strikes are conducted.

The legislation would remove the authority of US intelligence agencies to conduct lethal drone strikes, instead shifting all drone strike authority to the Department of Defense. This will increase transparency over these strikes by taking this authority away from the heavily secretive intelligence agencies. The Drone Reform Act also would allow U.S. military personnel to testify before Congress and release the details of all drone strikes. Expanding accountability for drone strikes also addresses vital questions of due process and the extent of executive and congressional war powers.

"The American people deserve full transparency on where their tax dollars are being spent—especially when it comes to matters of war." Congresswoman Lee said. "Currently, key information about drone strikes—including how they were carried out and how much they cost—remains within our intelligence agencies and largely hidden from public knowledge. Greater transparency is particularly importance given the grave concerns over the use of lethal drone strikes, which can have devastating and widespread impacts. Our nation's use of drones have enormous implications for human rights and the precedent we set as other nations increasingly adopt drone technology. It's past time for us to implement these much-needed reforms to enforce consequences in all instances of misconduct and so that Americans can stay fully aware of when, why, and how our military takes action through the use of drones."

"The Drone Reform Act ensures transparency and accountability in military drone strikes,” said Rep. Burgess. “This bipartisan legislation moves the authority for drone strikes to the Department of Defense, granting the American people access to critical information about how their tax dollars are being spent in matters of war. By doing so, it addresses pressing questions of due process and the balance of powers. As emerging drone technology continues to shape our national defense, this legislation safeguards against its potential misuse, upholding our commitment to responsible governance."

By consolidating authority over drone strikes in the Department of Defense, the Drone Reform Act will ensure that the American people have access to drone strike reports and awareness of how the federal government is putting their dollars to use. This legislation combats the present lack of oversight throughout this process. While emerging drone technology has the potential to enhance our national defense, these new capabilities also significantly escalate the danger of misuse.

This bill has been endorsed by: Interfaith Working Group on Drones, Win Without War, Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International USA, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Church of the Brethren, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, Coalition for Peace Action, Demand Progress Action, Franciscan Action Network, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Government Information Watch, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Sisters of Charity BVM, and United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries.

The full text of the bill can be found here.