On March 20, Reuters reported that the Trump Administration is preparing to change regulations regarding the export of some lethal, armed drones to dozens of U.S. allies and partners. Although the plan has not yet been made public, Reuters claimed to have verified the report by talking to officials in the Trump administration.
Trump’s aides had initially focused mostly on devising ways to boost sales of “eye in the sky” drones used for tracking and targeting. But after a more than year-long review, they have crafted a plan that will reinterpret some rules to allow for more armed drone sales overseas.
A list of potential buyers being given fast-track treatment is expected to expand to include more NATO members, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners as well as treaty allies such as Japan and South Korea, the people familiar with the plan said.
The rules change will reportedly soon be announced as part of Trump’s “Buy American” program, which is part of an effort to create jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Reuters noted that the policy has been held up for months due to debate about how to ease the rules and to whom the drones should go. Reuters reported that an “industry source and two U.S. officials” said the delay on drone exports caused Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to pressure Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to approve the changes.
Reuters also noted that the new policy will “lower barriers to sales of smaller hunter-killer drones that carry fewer missiles and travel shorter distances than larger models.” However, the new regulations will allow for the sale of surveillance drones of all size.
The new move by the Trump administration is indicative of an overall willingness to embrace drone technology for both surveillance and warfare. In fact, recent decisions by the Trump administration also make it clear they are willing to see an increase in the use of drones by foreign partners, as well domestically.
In October, Activist Post reported that a newly signed Presidential Memorandum would normalize the use of drones in American life:
The memo, titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program,” allows certain communities to be exempt from current safety rules as they test drone operations. Under the Trump administration the use of drone bombings are increasing and airstrikes have already increased. Also, in an apparent effort to fight illegal immigration, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be using drones to conduct aerial surveillance on American citizens on the border. These actions have led privacy groups to ask the U.S. Senate if images gathered by the CBP’s drones will be connected to the agencies facial recognition database.
The Trump Administration’s new rules for exporting drones and the recent presidential memo should make it clear that drone technology— for surveillance and murder— is not going anywhere in the near future. How might the American public adapt to a world where the world’s wealthiest nations are in possession of deadly, invasive drone aircraft? Is it possible that foreign nations’ drones may someday be flying over American skies?