Sending Office: Honorable James P. McGovern
Sent By:

Deadline: COB, Friday, May 1st –

Join Letter to Defense Secretary Esper

On Reversal of U.S. Policy on Anti-Personnel Landmines


Current House Signatures (55): James P. McGovern, Jackie Speier, Alan Lowenthal, Danny K. Davis (IL), Peter Welch, Raúl M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Bobby L. Rush, Barbara Lee (CA), Jan Schakowsky, Maxine Waters,
Betty McCollum, Debra Haaland, Rosa DeLauro, Donald Beyer, Jr., Peter DeFazio, Jerrold Nadler, Earl Blumenauer, Marcia Fudge, Ilhan Omar, Andy Levin (MI), Ro Khanna, Tom Malinowski, Joseph Kennedy, III, Hank Johnson (GA), David Trone, Jim Costa, Mark Pocan,
Katherine Clark (MA), Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, John Lewis, Jimmy Panetta, Bill Keating, André Carson, Rashida Tlaib, Chellie Pingree, Judy Chu, Anna Eshoo, Marcy Kaptur, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Eliot Engel, Julia Brownley, Frederica Wilson (FL). Gilbert
R. Cisneros, Jr., Emanuel Cleaver, II, Matt Cartwright, Abigail Spanberger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Yvette D. Clarke (NY), Cheri Bustos, Nydia M. Velázquez, Daniel T. Kildee, Steve Cohen, David N. Cicilline

Current Senate Signatures (22): Leahy, Bennet, Durbin, Markey, Coons, Brown, Van Hollen, Merkley, Cardin, Shaheen, Murray, Feinstein,
Collins, Wyden, Hirono, Warren, Schatz, Reed, Schumer, Warner, Carper, Murphy


Dear Colleague,

            Senator Leahy and I invite you to join us on a bicameral letter asking about the recent reversal of U.S. policy regarding anti-personnel landmines.

            For over two decades, Congress has been the leading advocate for eliminating the production, use and export of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) during Republican and Democratic administrations alike. This included encouraging President Obama to
review and conclude years of study and negotiations within U.S. defense and intelligence agencies on how the U.S. military would curtail its use of APLs. In 2014, President Obama announced that the U.S. would no longer use landmines that were not compliant
with the international treaty to ban landmines, with the exception of the Korean Peninsula. This has been U.S. policy until January 31st when Defense Secretary Esper announced that policy was being reversed.

            The attached letter to Secretary of Defense Esper poses a set of policy and implementation questions regarding this reversal of APL policy.
Deadline for signatures is COB Friday, May 1st.
Please let Cindy Buhl in my office ( know if you would like to join this bicameral letter.

            Thank you for taking a look at this during this hectic period –


James P. McGovern

Member of Congress


The Honorable Mark Esper

Secretary of Defense

The Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301


Dear Mr. Secretary:

We were very disappointed to learn of the Trump Administration’s decision to reverse years of progress in limiting the production and use of antipersonnel landmines. It is inexplicable that the consultative process between the White House, the Department
of Defense, Congress, and civil society organizations that produced policies on this issue during past Democratic and Republican administrations was ignored by this administration.

The Department of Defense’s justification for the change in policy is not materially different from what it was three decades ago. Yet since then, U.S. armed forces have been deployed in multiple protracted conflicts and, except for a single instance in
1991, have not used these victim-activated weapons. There are well-established reasons for that, which we need not repeat. In the meantime, due in part to U.S. leadership, the use of antipersonnel mines, and the number of mine casualties, have plummeted. This
decision puts that progress in grave jeopardy. We would appreciate your answers to the following questions:

Specific Policy Issues

  1. What has changed since 2014 that required the U.S. to reverse the previous landmine policy?
  2. Do either the U.S. Army Europe Operational Needs Statement (ONS) #18-22702 or the Joint Service Operational Requirement (JSOR) #0683 directly specify the necessity for the future use of victim-activated landmines? Alternatively, are either focused on the
    use of anti-vehicle mines to counter a mounted enemy threat in high-intensity operations? Please provide copies of both.
  3. The 2014 policy set the goal of the U.S. joining the Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Convention) in the future. Does the 2020 policy abandon that goal in perpetuity?
  4. U.S. arguments about the “safety” of its self-destruct/self-deactivating mines have been explicitly rejected by our closest allies for more than three decades. As far as we are aware, there have been no material advances in such technology during that time.
    What has changed that now enables the Department to insist on the safety and desirability of such mines?
  5. Why has the authorization for the use of antipersonnel mines been changed to a lower level, from the President (since 1996) to a four-star general acting as a regional commander?
  6. How does DoD define or determine the “exceptional circumstances” under which landmines are now permitted to be used? What criteria will be applied?

DoD Reports

  1. How many landmine-related reports has the DoD produced since the 2014 policy announcement of the Obama administration? Please provide copies of such reports.
  2. Please provide details on the “high fidelity” study on possible alternatives to mines on the Korea Peninsula that was cited in the 2014 Obama policy.
  3. What was the purpose and outcome of the 2016 DoD report cited at the time of the 2020 announcement? When did it start, what were its terms of reference, when was it completed?
  4. What was the purpose and outcome of the 2017-2018 DoD report cited at the time of the 2020 announcement? When did it start, what were its terms of reference, when was it completed?


  1. When and why did the U.S. last use antipersonnel mines, and with what result?
  2. What alternative weapons, tactics, and strategies enabled DoD to agree in 2014 to ban the use of antipersonnel mines everywhere except on the Korean peninsula?
  3. Where does DoD now envision that it might use existing stockpiles of antipersonnel mines, outside of the Korean peninsula?

Research and Development / Alternatives

  1. How do “terrain shaping area denial munitions” differ from antipersonnel mines?
  2. Would any future “terrain shaping area denial munitions” be consistent with the Ottawa Convention banning antipersonnel mines?

Production / Acquisition

  1. Is DoD contemplating re-opening production lines for existing antipersonnel mines, for example, the Gator and ADAM systems? If so, when?
  2. Under the 2020 policy, will DoD replace and/or extend the life of the batteries in existing antipersonnel mine stocks?
  3. Does DoD foresee production of new “terrain shaping area denial munitions” in the next few years?
  4. Will the Standoff Activated Volcano Obstacle (SAVO) program only develop a system capable of only using Ottawa-compliant M87A1 Volcano anti-vehicle mine cannisters?
  5. Do the modernization plans for the M7 Spider Networked Munition include re-introducing the “battlefield over-ride switch” that allows for the victim-activation of munitions controlled by it? Previously, Congress received assurances from the U.S. Army Vice
    Chief of Staff that Spider would only be procured in a configuration that only allowed command-detonation. Does the new policy nullify this commitment?
  6. Are CBU-78 and CBU-89 Gator air-delivered landmines, a mixed system containing anti-vehicle and antipersonnel mines, now considered to be the Deep Terrain Shaping Obstacle (DTSO)? Budget justification materials state that existing stocks of this system
    have a life expectancy of 36 years (losing capability in 2025) and the methods used to make this determination were unknown to DoD. It is our understanding that approximately $2 million in FY17 Army-wide RDT&E appropriations were used to test “the actual life
    expectancy and effectiveness of the current Deep Terrain Shaping Obstacle system in order to decide when a replacement capability needs to be fielded. In parallel, evaluation [of] the technical data package and determining the cost of producing additional
    units of the current Deep Terrain Shaping Obstacle.” Can DoD provide documentation of the findings and conclusions of this effort/program? Ref: Army-wide RDT&E Budget Activity 7, Program Element 0607131A / Weapons and Munitions Product Improvement Programs,
    Project ER2 / Close Combat Technology.
  7. Does DoD’s statement that the 2020 “policy encourages the Military Departments to explore acquiring landmines and landmine alternatives that could further reduce the risk of unintended harm to non-combatants” reverse the previous landmine policy prohibition
    on acquisition of any type of antipersonnel mines? What specific types mines or alternatives are contemplated?

Transfer / Acquisition

  1. As part of the 2020 policy, does DoD envisage importing antipersonnel mines for operational use? If so, from where would it acquire the mines?
  2. Is DoD committed to continuing to uphold the legislative prohibition on the export and transfer of antipersonnel mines?


  1. Please provide details on the size and composition of the current U.S. stockpile of antipersonnel mines.
  2. How many, and what types of, mines have been made inactive and/or destroyed since 2014?
  3. As the shelf-life of U.S. self-destruct/self-deactivating antipersonnel mines decreases with each year, when will the existing stockpile expire and no longer be usable? Previously, DoD has indicated a date in the early 2030s.

Thank you for your assistance. We look forward to your response.



Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Armed Services, Foreign Affairs

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