If U.S. Wants to Steer Global Rules on Drones, It Needs to Dominate Global Sales

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Financial Times story last week (US urged to rethink export controls on drones) re: Paris Air Show cites multiple US defense corporate sources complaining that unless the US Government lifts some of the restrictions, the world’s “insatiable appetite” for drones will be exploited by other nations’ military-industrial complexes. The big issue? The drones are treated under the Missile Technology Control Regime, which is fairly strict and expensive to appeal when decisions go against you.

For a government that wants to cut a lot of defense spending while maintaining industrial base and technological leads, this is a self-defeating path. We’re – yet again – obsessing over nukes (20th century problem) and letting that restrict our strategic vision right when we’re trying to get poorer allies to do more for themselves. Well, drones are cheap and effective and self-empowering in a good, transparent way. Plus, the more that are out there and the more they’re used, the less acrimonious the international response when we continue to use ours vigorously.  Also, as bad guys and private sector entities inevitably stock up, we’ll need rules/responses to govern that reality.  The faster and wider the proliferation, the faster those rules come. Win-win-win-win.

Congress needs to move on this because our “world without nukes” White House will not.