The Department of Defense has reversed a plan adopted in 2008 to rid its inventory of most of its cluster bombs – a technology dating back to World War II, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
“We must not lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage against potential adversaries that seek operational and tactical advantages against the United States and its allies and partners,” explained Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan in a recent memo changing the policy.
Shanahan said “the department will retain cluster munitions currently in active inventories until the capabilities they provide are replaced with enhanced and more reliable munitions.”
The munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched and then release a number of smaller submunitions. Intended to target enemy personnel or destroy vehicles, they were developed during World War II and remain in many nations’ weapons stockpiles.
A Congressional Research Service report explains they frequently have been used in combat, including the early phases of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Cluster munitions have been highly criticized internationally for causing a significant number of civilian deaths, and efforts have been undertaken to ban and regulate their use,” the report said.
While the Department of Defense views the munitions “as a military necessity,” it decided in 2008 to adopt a policy to “reduce the failure rate of cluster munitions to 1 percent or less after 2018.”
But the new policy ensures that the U.S. military is “ready to fight adversaries now and in the future is a fundamental to ensuring our nation’s security.”
“Accordingly, it is critically important that the U.S. military has effective weapons that meet its needs and that minimize unintended harm, including to civilians, our own forces, and other friendly forces, from unexploded ordnance.”
The munitions are effective for “massed formations of enemy forces, individual targets dispersed over a defined area, targets whose precise location are not known, and time-sensitive or moving targets,” the policy-change announcement said.
“Cluster munitions are legitimate weapons with clear military utility, as they provide distinct advantages against a range of threats in the operating environment. Additionally, the use of cluster munitions may result in less collateral damage than the collateral damage that results from the use of unitary munitions alone,” the statement said.