American Legion News
During Fall Meetings in Indianapolis in October, the American Legion National Executive Committee passed 19 resolutions. These are now available to view in the Legion's Digital Archive; see the full collection here.
In addition to these most current resolutions, the Digital Archive contains all the currently active resolutions from 1919 to present – around 2,000 that establish and guide the priorities and programs of The American Legion.
During his speech to the National Executive Committee during Fall Meetings on Oct. 16, American Legion National Historian James Mariner announced the winners of the 2019 national history contests, judged by members of the National Association of Department Historians of The American Legion (NADHAL).
One-Year Department Narrative History Contest:
First award: Department of North Carolina
Second award: Department of Indiana
One-Year Department Yearbook History Contest:
First award: Department of Missouri
Second award: Department of Nebraska
Third award: Department of Georgia
Certificate of Participation:
Department of Georgia
Department of Missouri
Department of North Carolina
Department of Nebraska
Department of Colorado
Department of Wisconsin
Department of Ohio
Department of West Virginia
Department of New York
One-Year Post Narrative History Contest:
First award: Carroll Post 143, Carrollton, Ga.
Second award: CSM Gary W. Crisp Post 289, Clarksville, Tenn.
Third award: Pony Express Post 359, St. Joseph, Mo.
Certificate of Participation:
Missing Man Post 667, Universal City, Texas
Harold A. Todd Jr. Wisconsin Motor Post 537, Milwaukee, Wis.
Adams, Hanna, Moore Memorial Post 156, Ellicott City, Md.
Oregon Post 67, Ontario, Ore.
Frank B. Bartlett Post 7, Buckhannon, W.Va.
American Legion Post 250, Middleburg, Fla.
One-Year Post Yearbook History Contest:
First award: Julius L. Shryer American Legion Post 430, Durant, Iowa
Second award: Codington County Post 17, Watertown, S.D., and Brunswick Post 9, Brunswick, Ga.
Third award: Frierson-Nichols Post 8, Winter Haven, Fla.
Certificate of Participation:
Park Post 23, Livingston, Mont.
Bates-O'Brien-Howe-Wiegel-Roelli Post 214, Darlington, Wis.
Warren F. Hoyle Post 82, Shelby, N.C.
Martin Wallberg Post 3, Westfield, N.J.
Harry White Wilmer Post 82, La Plata, Md.
Harry Higgins Post 88, Ashland, Ohio
Blackwell-Frazier Post 142, Hominy, Ohio
Elmont Post 1033, Elmont, N.Y.
Canby Post 122, Canby, Ore.
Women Veterans of Southwest Missouri Post 1214, Springfield, Mo.
Milton Post 139, Milton, W.Va.
Horry County Post 111, Conway, S.C.
H. U. Wood Post 245, Seguin, Texas
Scotts Hill Post 243, Regan, Tenn.
Alley-White Post 52, Mountain Home, Ark.
Charles S. Hatch Post 79, Berwick, Maine
Mariner continued that NADHAL training earlier in the week included a number of new department historians, and the organization's meeting featured an Auxiliary historian observer; the American Legion Auxiliary is preparing for their 100th centennial celebration. Robin Shingleton was elected NADHAL president.
Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie
There are several ways to develop yourself personally and professionally during either a long or a short commute.
Here are 5 tips to creating a professional development plan to do during your commute:
Put Yourself at Ease. Often times, the best step in preparing for your future is to prepare to relax. Deep breathing exercises are an immediate way to relax and prepare for a stressful day. First, take three to five deep breaths through your nose and slowly release the air through your mouth. Next, slowly breathe through your nose and concentrate all your attention on the air as it enters and leaves your nose.
Second, think about the stressful parts of your day and find a way to imagine a perfect way to succeed through the stress. Your source of stress can be a presentation, a talk with your boss, or a difficult conversation with a co-worker. In all of these instances, imagine the encounter going perfectly and all that you did to make it perfect: a presentation delivered with enthusiasm and well-received by the room; a great update to your boss where you anticipate all her questions; or a very productive meeting with a co-worker where you discuss and agree on all the major points. The critical element to your future success is how to engage productively and constructively with all the stress in your workplace.
Dictate a "To-Do" List. Another source of stress that can be conquered is to use a dictation app on your phone or an audio recording to create a stream of consciousness "to-do" list as you drive or walk. This is a great way to reduce stress by creating a list of your daily, weekly, or monthly key workplace to-do items, project ideas, team coaching needs, and other essential tasks into a list. If you have a voice-to-text feature on your mobile device that can really help to take all your ideas so you can place it into a list when you get to work. "To-Do" lists can help you identify all your nagging workplace concerns as you ride, walk, or drive that allow you to become instantly productive the moment you walk through the office doors.
Discover Podcasts. Podcasts are perfect professional development methods to listen to a new book, catch up on a speech by a famous academic at a college or university, or listen to members of a think tank discuss the latest trends in product innovation. Podcasts from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London School of Economics, BusinessWeek, and others are given in regular intervals, are always informative, and help you spend commute time incredibly wisely with business updates. In addition, don't disregard podcasts that offer the latest updates in other areas. Sometimes, understanding and learning about new ideas and innovations in seemingly unrelated areas offer the greatest opportunities for personal growth and development.
Schedule a Short Conversation. If you can, schedule calls with old contacts, university professors, or other industry contacts even if it is for a strict 10 to 15 minutes. These short calls to discuss industry trends, new topics, and competitor activities are always insightful and eye-opening. Sometimes, the best ideas and insights come from talking with an expert or a former colleague to hear their feedback and their own insights.
Catch up on News and Magazine Articles. I keep an email folder and file all of my weekly and daily news updates. When I am waiting for a cup of coffee or riding on the bus, it is a perfect time to skim and selectively deep read on important topics. Keeping a dedicated folder is a great use of time because it allows me to go right to my most important sources of information and not have to search during the commute.
Professional development during your commute is a great way to reduce stress, proactively prepare for the day, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and news through newspapers, podcasts, conversations, and videos.
When we were in the military, we would never let our battle buddies down.
The same is true now. Only we have millions of buddies today — brothers and sisters who proudly defended our nation. We may have worn the uniform at the same time, before them or afterward. We may have served in the same branch, or a different one.
While our stories of military service differ, we all took the same oath and served our nation proudly. For each of us, a veteran is a veteran. Now what is important is that we have the backs of our battle buddies.
That's where The American Legion's Buddy Checks come into play. Twice a year, around Veterans Day and the American Legion Birthday, we engage in a concerted effort to check on our fellow veterans. It's a great way to reach out to former members and those who don't regularly visit the post.
As Veterans Day approaches, American Legion posts are encouraged to take some time to reconnect with these veterans in their communities. A toolkit has been prepared with scripts, an FAQ and other information to help guide post members through the Buddy Check process.
In the inaugural Buddy Checks last March, Legionnaires found many veterans who needed assistance, some of whom were too proud to reach out to ask for help. But thanks to the Buddy Check program and follow-through by Legionnaires, many of our buddies were able to get the assistance they needed.
That's how we fulfill our promise to our battle buddies of today, by checking on them.
Through fan voting, American Legion Baseball is honoring the greatest players from the first 100 years of The American Legion, which celebrated its centennial on March 15.
A total of 85 nominees, including all of the 78 former American Legion Baseball players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as players or coaches, were presented to the American Legion Baseball Committee, which pared the list down to 60 for a fan vote.
Fans voted by the thousands for a final 18-man roster, the same size as an American Legion Baseball team.
The results created this team, featuring 17 Hall of Fame inductees and one sure-fire future Hall of Famer.
The leading vote getters were two legendary players, both of whom also served their country during wartime: Ted Williams and Bob Feller.
Catcher: Yogi Berra
Fred W. Stockholm Post 245 - Missouri
Berra appeared in 14 MLB World Series and won 10 of them. The three-time American League Most Valuable Player and 18-time All-Star was rewarded with enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Following high school, Berra joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 during World War II and served as gunner's mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France.
Catcher: Johnny Bench
Post 24, Anadarko – Oklahoma
Named 1973 American Legion Graduate of the Year, Bench was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. The 14-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion won two Most Valuable Player awards and 10 Gold Gloves.
First Baseman: Harmon Killebrew
Payette – Idaho
Named 1969 American Legion Graduate of the Year., Killebrew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Known for his power, "The Killer" led the American League in home runs six times. He made 13 All-Star Game appearances and was the 1969 AL MVP.
Designated Hitter: Albert Pujols
Hi-Boy Drive In/Post 340, Independence - Missouri
One of only four members of the 3,000-hit to also have 600 home runs, Pujols is a future Hall of Famer. The 10-time All-Star has won two World Series, three Most Valuable Player awards, six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and two Hank Aaron Awards.
Second Baseman: Joe Morgan
Post 471, Oakland - California
A 10-time All-Star and two-time Most Valuable Player, Morgan helped the Reds to back-to-back World Series wins in 1975 and 1976. A five-time Gold Glover, Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Third Baseman: Brooks Robinson
M. M. Eberts Post No. 1 Doughboys - Arkansas
Arguably the best defensive third baseman ever, Robinson won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards and made 18-straight All-Star games. The 1964 American League MVP won two World Series titles and was named the 1970 World Series MVP. He was named the 1964 American Legion Graduate of the Year. He is a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 1983.
Shortstop: Pee Wee Reese
Louisville - Kentucky
A 1984 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Reese was a 10-time All-Star, including nine straight appearances. He helped the Dodgers to World Series titles in 1955 and 1959.
Utility: Robin Yount
Los Angeles - California
A member of the 3,000-hit club, Yount was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. The three-time All-Star and two-time American League Most Valuable Player helped guide the Brewers to an appearance in the World Series in 1982.
Outfielder: Ted Williams
San Diego - California
A member of the MLB All-Time and All-Century Teams, Williams defined an era of hitting, batting .344 over his career with 521 home runs. The 19-time All-Star earned two MVPs and had two Triple Crowns. He is the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to serve during two war eras, first training as a reservist aviator in the Navy during World War II. He later was commissioned in the Marines and served in Korea, reaching the rank of captain. He was named the 1960 American Legion Graduate of the Year.
Outfielder: Stan Musial
Donora - Pennsylvania
Musial, named 1961 American Legion Graduate of the Year, appeared in a record-tying 24 All-Star Games and holds numerous hitting records. He finished with a career .331 batting average with 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. The three-time NL MVP and three-time World Series champion was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1969. He served in the Navy during World War II.
Outfielder: Tony Gwynn
Arthur L. Peterson Post 27, Long Beach - California
"Mr. Padre" led San Diego for two decades as one of the best pure hitters ever. His .338 career batting average and eight batting titles came from a model of consistency, with the Hall of Famer never hitting below .309. He added 15 All-Star appearances and five Gold Gloves. He was named 1998 American Legion Graduate of the Year. He played for Arthur L. Peterson Post 27, Long Beach, Calif.
Outfielder: Frank Robinson
Bill Erwin Post 237, Oakland - California
A two-time World Champion, Robinson is the only player to win MVP in both leagues. The Hall of Famer also won the triple crown before becoming the first African-American manager in MLB history. He was the 1966 Graduate of the Year; the 14-time All-Star had his number retired by the Reds, Orioles and Indians, and is a member of each of those teams' Halls of Fame.
Starting Pitcher: Bob Feller
Variety Post 313, Van Meter - Iowa
The first American Legion alumnus inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Feller played Legion Baseball in Iowa from the age of 10. He was in the Major Leagues by age 17 and spent 18 fantastic years in the majors on his way to a first ballot Hall of Fame induction. Feller became the first American athlete to enlist after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and served in the Navy for four years before becoming a Legionnaire. A true role model, Feller's name adorns the Legion's award for the best pitcher.
Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson
Omaha - Nebraska
Gibson was the World Series Most Valuable Player in each of the Cardinals' two titles during his tenure. The nine-time All-Star added two Cy Young Awards to his resume. He is a member of the MLB All-Century team and was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1981.
Starting Pitcher: Greg Maddux
Post 8, Las Vegas - Nevada
Known for his control and fielding, Maddux won 18 straight Gold Glove awards and four-straight Cy Young awards. The 18-time All-Star won 15 or more games for 17 straight seasons. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2014. He was named 1994 American Legion Graduate of the Year.
Starting Pitcher: Warren Spahn
Buffalo - New York
The winningest left-handed pitcher of all-time, Spahn finished his career with 363 wins and a 3.09 earned run average. The 17-time All-Star led the NL in wins eight times, and won the Cy Young and World Series in 1957. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 and is a member of the MLB All-Century Team. Spahn served in the Army during World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart for his actions in Remagen, Germany in 1945.
Relief Pitcher: Rollie Fingers
Upland Post 73 – California
The 1964 Legion Player of the Year from Upland Post 73 (Calif.), Fingers went on to become the only American Legion Player of the Year to reach the Hall of Fame. His career included an MVP, World Series MVP, Cy Young, three World Series wins and seven All Star appearances.
Relief Pitcher: Lee Smith
Natchitoches - Louisiana
Smith retired in 1997 as the Major League's all-time leader in saves with 468. The seven-time All-Star led the league in saves four times and he was the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year recipient three times. In 1991, Smith set a National League record with 47 saves and was runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award. He is part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 and was a unanimous inductee by the Today's Game Era Committee.
Manager: Sparky Anderson
Los Angeles Crenshaw Post 715 - California
A winner of the American Legion World Series as a player in 1951, Anderson reached the majors as a player but was known for his managerial career, where he finished with a record of 2,194-1,834 (.545 winning percentage). He won three World Series titles (1975, 1976 and 1984) and two AL Manager of the Year titles. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Coach: Joe Torre
New York - New York
A 2014 Baseball Hall of Famer, Torre had a stellar playing career, earning nine All-Star Game trips, an MVP, Gold Glove and batting title, but reached the Hall as a manager, leading the Yankees to four World Series titles and earning two Manager of the Year awards. His career record as a manager was 2,326-1,997 (.538 winning percentage). As a Yankee, his teams had a .605 winning percentage and reached the playoffs all 12 seasons he was in the Bronx.
Department of Delaware Legionnaires will be conducting a district revitalization and veterans outreach effort in and around Kent and Sussex counties. Legionnaires will be on hand to discuss veterans benefits, the Legion's legislative efforts, membership opportunities and service to the community.
All veterans in the area are invited to attend the event, which will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 1-2 at American Legion Milford Post 3, 664 North Dupont Blvd., Milford.
A veterans service officer will be available to discuss claims and other Department of Veterans Affairs benefits-related questions.
American Legion Baseball will be well represented at the 115th World Series featuring the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals.
Ace starting pitcher Justin Verlander returns to the Fall Classic with the Astros, who won a league-high 107 games during the regular season. Verlander played American Legion Baseball at Post 201 in Powhatan, Va. Astros manager A.J. Hinch played Legion Baseball for Midwest City Post 170 in Oklahoma. That Oklahoma Outlaw program won the 2010 American Legion World Series.
The Nationals also feature a star pitcher with American Legion Baseball pedigree. Max Scherzer, the expected starter for the first game of the series, played for Post 397 in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
Other Nationals with ALB experience include second baseman Brian Dozier, who was named the 2017 American Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year. Dozier played for the Tupelo 49ers in Tupelo, Mississippi, for Post 49.
Nats relief pitcher Sean Doolittle played for Post 526 in Tabernacle, N.J.
The World Series begins Tuesday night in Houston. The American Legion World Series champions from Post 56 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be in attendance for Game 4 Saturday in Washington, D.C.
World War II veteran and avid American Legion Rider Dr. E. Bruce Heilman passed away Oct. 19 at age 93. A member of Maj. Charles A. Ransom American Legion Post 186 in Midlothian, Va., Heilman took part in multiple Rolling Thunder events with The American Legion Riders and also rode on the 2015 American Legion Legacy Run.
A World War II Marine Corps veteran, Heilman fought at Iwo Jima and decades later rode 6,000 miles across the country, traversing 20 states, to bring awareness to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Heilman served as a spokesman for The Greatest Generation Foundation and Spirit of '45, organizations dedicated to honoring World War II veterans and honoring America's Gold Star Families, families who have lost loved ones in combat.
"We're celebrating the lives of those who died in battle," said Heilman during his ride. "We are saying to the world, 'This is an important date, and you ought to acknowledge it and be proud of your country and be proud of the guys who died saving your county.'
On the ride, Heilman met up with several American Legion Riders who provided escorts during his visits to their states.
"During my trip I learned more about The American Legion and the Legion Riders than you can ever imagine," Heilman would say after completing his ride. "They knew exactly where I was going no matter the state or city. They paved the way. They were hospitable. (They were) mostly young former military who thought it was a good thing to help me do what I was doing."
In addition to serving as the University of Richmond's chancellor since 1986, Heilman also served as the university's president from 1971 through 1986 and again from 1987 to 1988. The university flag is flying at half-staff through Oct. 27, in recognition of his passing. A memorial service will take place Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. in the university's Cannon Memorial Chapel.
For a video of Heilman discussing the Legacy Run and his experiences at Iwo Jima, click here.
For a video of Heilman talking about his 6,000-mile journey, click here.
American Legion National Headquarters has developed online membership processing tools for the Sons of The American Legion (SAL). The tools are available to SAL departments, detachments, posts and squadrons.
The "Process Membership" feature located on MyLegion.org and MySAL.org allows post and squadron officers to renew, add new and transfer paying members online.
For more information about SAL online membership processing or to schedule an activation of the processing tools, please contact Customer Support by calling 1-800-433-3318 or by email: MyLegion@Legion.org. And for additional information, download this Guide to Electronic Membership Transmittals via MySAL.org.
The September drone attacks targeting Saudi oilfields make it obvious that the age of drone warfare is upon us. What's not so obvious is whether our framework for understanding, deploying and defending against unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) has caught up with this revolutionary technology.
PAST For many years, we thought of drones as something we use against our enemies – not in terms of the threat drones pose to us, our interests and our allies. Using just 10 armed drones, the Iranian-backed Houthi drone attacks targeting the Saudi oilfields "reduced crude oil production by 5.7 million barrels a day – about half the kingdom's output," according to the BBC. The attacks in Saudi Arabia re-remind us that our monopolies on weapons systems – from the atomic bomb to stealth and cyber to UCAVs – are always fleeting.
This didn't happen overnight. The use of drones in war has evolved and advanced over decades. Recall that during the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. warships used drones to track enemy movements and to aid in targeting. But sailors aboard USS Missouri found another use for their drones. Rather than face the business end of Missouri's big guns, Iraqi soldiers surrendered to its drones. The Baltimore Sun reported it this way: "It had to be a military first ... an Iraqi soldier spinning around and around with his hands in the air trying to attract the attention of the pilot of a small plane flying above him. Only it wasn't a plane. It was a pilotless drone."
The drone had evolved from playing a passive role in identifying targets to being an active player in what was happening in the trenches.
Drones closed the circle in Yemen a decade later, when the CIA converted a Predator drone designed for reconnaissance into a ground-attack warplane. Retrofitted with Hellfire missiles, the killer drone targeted and eliminated the mastermind of the USS Cole attack. Thus was born the unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
At the time, only the United States deployed UCAVs. In those years when America enjoyed a UCAV monopoly, American UCAVs disabled the convoy carrying Moammar Qaddafi in Libya, killed al-Qaida's Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, eliminated Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour in Pakistan, eviscerated the Taliban's ranks across the AfPak theater, and pounded al-Shabaab in Somalia.
In 2013, responding to an essay I authored about the need to understand the full implications of UCAVs, a commenter dismissed my concerns that 75 countries had drone programs underway by noting, "In reality, of these 75 countries, only three are known to have UCAVs."
Even then, it was evident that several regimes – both hostile and friendly – were developing UCAVs. China and Russia were at the top of that list. Germany and France were procuring armed drones. Hezbollah had started to acquire drones. And it was suspected that North Korea was retooling its drones into offensive weapons.
My concerns were well-founded. By 2019, more than 25 countries would field UCAVs, including Russia, China, North Korea, Serbia and Iran. In addition, terrorist groups and other non-state actors have deployed armed drones: Hezbollah against Israel and against Sunni terror cells, Houthis against Saudi Arabia, Hamas against Israel, anti-government forces against Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, ISIS against coalition forces in Iraq.
Along with the United States, countries known to have conducted drone strikes include Britain, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq and Israel. It appears France may have used UCAVs in operations in Mali. In addition, Iranian-manufactured drones likely under the control of Syrian or Iranian military personnel have dropped ordnance in Syria.
This proliferation of UCAVs poses a "growing threat to U.S. and allied military operations," a RAND report concludes. The United States maintains restrictions on UCAV exports, in hopes of keeping them out of unsavory and/or untrustworthy hands. China and Russia have no such concerns.
It's no mystery as to why UCAV technologies are proliferating: they eliminate risk to those pulling the trigger, and they cost a lot less than manned warplanes. A Predator drone, for instance, costs $4.5 million, while an F-35 costs $111 million, an F-22 $377 million. And owing to their size and range, UCAVs can conceal their home address far more effectively than the typical, non-stealthy manned warplane.
PRESENT Almost 20 years after America's first foray into drone warfare, U.S. military and political leaders have embraced drones as their weapon of choice in the post-9/11 campaign of campaigns.
Yet these numbers tell only part of the story of how UCAVs are rapidly dislodging manned aircraft from the central role they have played in war-fighting since World War II -- and revolutionizing how the United States defends itself and targets its enemies:
• Reaper and Predator UCAVs conducted 33 percent of the sorties targeting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
• The still-in-development B-21 bomber will be "capable of manned and unmanned missions."
• The Navy has created a "drone command center" aboard USS Carl Vinson and will add another aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
• The Air Force is hiring civilian contractors to fly UCAVs and tasking personnel with no flight experience to drone operations.
• The United States has built a far-flung global infrastructure to support the drone war, enfolding Turkey, Italy, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Niger, the Philippines, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
• Before he left his post as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen remarked, "There are those that see the JSF (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) as the last manned fighter -- or fighter-bomber or jet -- and I'm one that's inclined to believe that ... We're at a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation."
Add it all up, and it's fair to conclude that we are witnessing the transformation of warfare before our very eyes. This isn't the first revolution in warfare, of course. But it may be one of the most profound and most rapid -- and there's more to come. Some of what lies ahead should give us pause.
There are plans for manned aircraft to go into battle flanked by as many as seven unmanned aircraft slaved to the manned warplane. Paul Scharre of the Center for a New American Security expects "the balance of human-inhabited and uninhabited aircraft in the Air Force" to "shift over time," with the ratio reaching 20 unmanned aircraft to one manned aircraft.
The next step is for UCAVs to be empowered to attack targets autonomously. In his book "War Made New," Max Boot notes that UCAVs equipped with "target-recognition systems" and "autonomous attack systems" are on the horizon. Under a mode of operation known as "self-learning autonomy," drones will identify and attack targets based on predetermined conditions.
In fact, the Air Force's Skyborg project is an effort to deploy by 2023 an autonomous UCAV that relies on AI technologies to fly the aircraft. Already, as Defense News reports, the Army's Gray Eagle drones are empowered to ignore their operators' commands -- or at least delay acting on those commands -- if the drone's internal AI systems detect "a higher-level threat," in which case the drone will focus on eliminating what it determines to be the more pressing threat.
Back on the ground, the Army is mulling "manned-unmanned teaming," according to Army chief of staff Gen. James McConville.
Still, he has questions about the drone age. "You still need soldiers on the battlefield," as he explained during a video-link presentation covered by Military.com. "If you are watching me here on video, you don't get the same feeling as if you are in the crowd, and it's the same thing in combat."
McConville, it seems, is reminding us that we need humans in the battlespace because humans make better judgments than machines -- and because having humans in the battlespace can help policymakers make better judgments about when, where and whether to wage war.
Drones make it easier to go to war. By separating the warrior from the battlespace, we are removing personal risk to those pulling the trigger and removing political risk to those authorizing military action.
Think about it: The political cost is high when a commander-in-chief loses personnel, but negligible when a commander in chief loses a robot or pilotless plane. Just compare the public's non-reaction to the loss of drones during the Obama and Trump administrations with the international crises earlier administrations faced when manned aircraft were shot down: President Dwight Eisenhower weathered international humiliation after the Soviets brought down a U-2. President John Kennedy was pressed to go to war when a U-2 was shot down over Cuba. President Bill Clinton had to deal with a hostage crisis abroad and a political crisis at home when a Blackhawk was shot down in Mogadishu. President George W. Bush faced a Cold War-style crisis when China brought down a Navy reconnaissance plane.
Not only do drones make it easier to go to war; they make it easier to keep wars going.
Recall that today's UCAV strikes are conducted under the auspices of a 2001 war resolution that authorized the president to target "those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 ... to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States." It would be a stretch to say this piece of legislation authorized -- 18 years later -- an autopilot war against targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali and beyond. Those targets may indeed be enemies of, and threats to, the United States. But few, if any, of them "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the 9/11 attacks.
A final, worrisome byproduct of the proliferation of drones is how they have enabled non-power-projecting nations -- and non-nations -- to join the ranks of power-projecting nations.
Many of the newcomers to the UCAV club are less discriminating in employing military force than the United States -- and less skillful. Let's stipulate that America's UCAV program is the best in the world. Yet the accident rate for the Reaper is 16.4 per 100,000 hours, while the accident rate for the manned F-16 is 4.1 per 100,000 hours. Unresponsive U.S. drones have crashed in eastern Iran, collided with manned aircraft and veered out of control. The Washington Post reports that a Predator based in Djibouti "started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed."
To be sure, manned aircraft have mechanical problems. But America's manned warplanes don't start on their own, don't fly renegade sorties, don't have to be chased down and destroyed, and don't fly into friendly aircraft. If the best drones deployed by the best military on earth malfunction this often, imagine the accident rate for substandard drones deployed by substandard militaries. And then imagine the international incidents this will trigger. It would be ironic if the promise of risk-free war offered by drones spawned new risks for the United States and its allies.