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Pentagon may allow military bases to shoot down threatening drones

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The Pentagon has approved policy that allows military bases to defend themselves against invasive and threatening unmanned aircraft, including the potential to shoot down the machines.

But military personnel say the recently issued guidelines are meant to protect the bases and clarify policy that has been in place for decades.

Media outlets began reporting about the guidelines last week. The policy in its entirety is classified, Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

"Due to operation security, the U.S. Air Force isn't able to go into the specific rules for the use of force, but as previously stated we retain the right and obligation to act in self-defense against unmanned aerial system threats," Airman Elijaih Tiggs, a spokesman with Grand Forks Air Force Base, wrote in an email. "What I can tell you is that our Security Forces Airmen are highly trained, mission-focused and always prepared to defend the base at all times."

News reports speculated the guidelines, developed by the Defense Department in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, give military personnel authority to confiscate or shoot down unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, that threaten bases. The Defense Department would not discuss strategy for removing threats, but the right for bases to defend themselves is not a new concept, Davis said.

As drones become more popular, the Defense Department wanted to update its defense guidelines to include drones invading military airspace as possible threats, he said.

"The main intent of that is to say military bases have the right to defend themselves, and if there are drones over their property, they will do something to remove that threat," Davis said. "Could it be shooting down? It could be. Would it be other things? It could be. Obviously, we don't want to discuss what those are for security purposes.

"Everybody goes straight to the, 'Hey, we're going to shoot it down,' " he said. "Well, yeah, that could be something that happens. The main thing we want to stress is there are military bases that are out there, we have to do things to protect them and there are things that are going to be happening if there are drones that are posing a threat."

Davis said it is all right to fly drones. Pilots should just check with the FAA before flying and avoid military base airspace.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248
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