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Friday, August 9, 2013

Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that release a number of smaller submunitions intended to kill enemy personnel or destroy vehicles. Cluster munitions were developed in World War II and are part of many nations’ weapons stockpiles. Cluster munitions have been used frequently 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 Department of Defense (DOD) continues to view cluster munitions as a military necessity but has instituted a policy to reduce the failure rate of cluster munitions to 1% or less after 2018.

There are two major international initiatives to address cluster munitions: the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and negotiations under the U.N. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The Obama Administration has reiterated U.S. opposition to the CCM, which entered into force August 1, 2010, but participated in negotiations regarding cluster munitions under the CCW.

Date of Report: July 30, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22907
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