On August 25, 2022, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP), which lays out a series of major actions DoD will implement to mitigate and respond to civilian harm.
The plan, directed by the Secretary of Defense, creates new institutions and processes that will improve strategic outcomes, optimize military operations, and strengthen DoD's ability to mitigate civilian harm during operations through a reinforcing framework. It will facilitate continued learning throughout DoD, enhance DoD's approach to assessments and investigations, and improve DoD's ability to effectively respond when civilian harm occurs. The actions set forth in the CHMR-AP build upon each other to improve accountability and transparency regarding civilian harm resulting from U.S. military operations. DoD will begin implementing the CHMR-AP immediately. Certain actions set forth in the plan can be taken now, while others will require additional time to properly implement.
Under the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response-Action Plan, DoD will:
- Establish a civilian protection center of excellence to serve as the hub and facilitator for DoD-wide analysis, learning, and training related to civilian harm mitigation and response (CHMR);
- Provide commanders and operators with more information to better understand the civilian environment; Incorporate guidance for addressing civilian harm across the full spectrum of armed conflict into doctrine and operation plans so that we are prepared to mitigate and respond to civilian harm in any future fight;
- Develop standardized civilian harm operational reporting and data management processes, including the development of a centralized, enterprise-wide data management platform, which will improve how DoD collects, shares, and learns from data related to civilian harm;
- Improve our ability to assess and respond to civilian harm resulting from our operations;
- Incorporate CHMR into exercises, training, and professional military education across the Joint force;
- Incorporate CHMR into security cooperation and operations with allies and partners;
- Establish a CHMR Steering Committee, which will be co-chaired by senior DoD leadership and which will convene regularly to provide executive leadership, oversight, and guidance during all phases of the action plan to facilitate its timely and effective implementation; and
- Designate the Secretary of the Army as DoD’s joint proponent for CHMR.
As directed by the CHMR-AP, and under the leadership and oversight of the Secretary of Defense, DoD leadership, and the CHMR Steering Committee, the Department will continue to improve its approach to mitigating and responding to civilian harm.
Protecting civilians from harm in connection with military operations is not only a moral imperative, it is also critical to achieving long-term success on the battlefield. Hard-earned tactical and operational successes may ultimately end in strategic failure if care is not taken to protect the civilian environment as much as the situation allows — including the civilian population and the personnel, organizations, resources, infrastructure, essential services, and systems on which civilian life depends.
The entire Action Plan can be found here.