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Immediate Release

Defense Department Updates Its Law of War Manual

Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an important update to its Law of War Manual.

The Manual provides authoritative legal guidance for DoD personnel in implementing the law of war and executing military operations. It reflects America's long and deep tradition of respect for the rule of law and the law of war. This is the third update to the Manual since it was first issued in June 2015.

The updated Manual substantially enhances the discussion of what the law of war requires when determining whether a person or object is a lawful target in planning and conducting attacks. It describes the legal duty to presume that persons or objects are protected from being targeted for attack unless the available information indicates that they are military objectives.

The Manual also includes a new section discussing the obligation to take feasible precautions to verify that potential targets are military objectives, including providing examples of common precautionary measures. The update affirms that the law of war does not prevent commanders and other personnel from making decisions and acting at the speed of relevance, including in high-intensity conflicts, based on their good-faith assessments of the information available at the time.

"As Secretary Austin has said, 'there are still rules in war.' Secretary Austin has rightly insisted that we make every effort to protect civilians and mitigate civilian harm during armed conflict. Protection of civilians is vital to the success of our military operations keeping America safe — and doing so is both a moral necessity and a strategic imperative," said Caroline Krass, Department of Defense General Counsel. "This updated version of the Department's Law of War Manual provides greater clarity on the requirements of the law of war that are critical for protecting civilians and civilian objects during military operations."

The Department will continue to update the Manual to provide DoD personnel with the best possible resource for understanding and complying with the law of war.

The updated Manual is publicly available at