On his last full day as commander-in-chief, President Bill Clinton urged the incoming Bush administration to "take the steps necessary" to enable the United States to eventually join the Ottawa Convention, which bans anti-personnel landmines (APLs). At the same time, Clinton deferred a decision on the future of two controversial Pentagon APL alternatives, leaving it up to the incoming Bush administration to choose whether to proceed with or cut the programs. The new administration has yet to speak on landmines.
Though Clinton endorsed the eventual elimination of APLs early in his presidency—making a September 1994 speech to the UN General Assembly calling for negotiation of a multilateral landmine control regime—the United States subsequently refused to sign the Ottawa Convention. Five months after the accord opened for signature in December 1997, Clinton pledged the United States would sign the treaty by 2006 if the Pentagon could identify and field suitable alternatives to APLs and mixed anti-tank systems by that time.
To date, the Defense Department has spent roughly $150 million on the APL alternative search and has two programs—the Remote Area Denial Artillery Munition (RADAM) and a "Man-in-the-Loop" system—awaiting executive decisions on whether production and development should be started. The Pentagon, however, acknowledges RADAM would not "technically comply" with the Ottawa Convention. Moreover, the "Man-in-the-Loop" system, which is a mine triggered by remote control and thereby permitted under the treaty, can be modified so that it is target activated, making it not compliant with the treaty. Convention prohibitions apply to APLs that are exploded by the "presence, proximity or contact of a person."
Clinton's deferral effectively put these two programs on hold. A Pentagon spokesman, indicated February 12 that "with the exception of these two programs, [the Department of Defense] is continuing its search for suitable alternatives."Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a leading proponent of banning landmines, welcomed Clinton's statement and said he looked forward to working with the Pentagon to "finish the job we have begun."