In 2016, on this day first reports from the Middle East of massive civilian casaulties caused by unmanned drone aircrafts were received in a 3 am telephone phone call to the White House. This nightmare scenario would test every ounce of the foreign policy experience of US President Hillary Rodham Clinton which the "Big Girl" had claimed during her election campaign eight long years before.
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The Big GirlThe vision of developing smarter unmanned aircraft that could make life-and-death combat decisions on their own was a proposal from "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan, 2009-2047", a thirty-eight year road map plan authored by the US Air Force during the Presidency of George W. Bush. At that time, drones had been remotely controlled from Air Force Personnel based in the contintental United States, mainly to provide ground troops with constant overhead video. And there seemed little imperative to change, with senior policy makers playing down the ultimate objective of drone autonomy "because it's a plan. And having a plan is better than not having a plan".
In 2010 the Defense Department had planned to spend $5.4 billion on unmanned aircraft development, procurement and operations - about $2.5 billion more than the military spent on UAVs during the 1990s. Then the world financial crisis had forced Clinton's Administration to take some brutal cuts in the military budget.
A decision had been made to accelerate the development of next-generation unmanned aircraft for a slate of new missions, including air strikes, aerial refueling, cargo transport and long-range bombing. Before Clinton's re-election, just one control crew - airborne or ground-based - was able to control multiple UAVs at once. Soon after the "Big Girl" returned to the White House, she signed the fateful order that provided executive approval for developing smarter unmanned aircraft that could make life-and-death combat decisions on their own. Investigations at the Creech Air Force Base would later reveal that the drone had been "hacked" by al-qaeda operatives and that the decision to fire had not after all been a malfunction.