The Air Force Is About To Waste BILLIONS On Drones… With No One To Fly Them
A new inspector general report reveals that the Air Force is having a tough time sticking to budget, and as it stands now, a 2013 plan to acquire 46 new drones would result in $8.8 billion dollars worth of waste.
The report, obtained by The Guardian and slated for official use only, indicates that the Air Force’s fleet of MQ-9 Reapers has already seen major expansion since it was first commissioned in 2007. Originally, the fleet consisted of 60 drones, a figure that’s been bumped up to 401 aircraft in the following years, representing an increase of 568 percent. Similarly, the cost ballooned to $11.4 billion, a 936 percent jump from starting costs of only $1.1 billion.
The surge in demand came about due to the necessity of aerial intelligence in Afghanistan and Iraq, but when the inspector general looked at the Air Combat Command’s reasoning for additional drones, the office came up empty-handed.
At a cost of $192 million per aircraft system, the drones are set to cost the Air Force $8.8 billion dollars, which all counts as unnecessary spending.
A recent memo from Gen. Herbert Carlisle also confirms the findings of the inspector general, namely that while there’s more than enough drones in place, what’s really missing is qualified and trained personnel.
ACC is finding it difficult to attract enough pilots to maintain the minimum flight crew necessary to run drone operations. The breakneck pace, stress and lack of career advancement has led to a retention rate of just 50 percent. (RELATED: Air Force Drone Program On The Verge Of Collapse)
“It’s at the breaking point, and has been for a long time,” a senior service official told The Daily Beast. “What’s different now is that the band-aid fixes are no longer working.”
According to this new report, part of the reason for an imbalance of personnel and aircraft is that Combat Command “did not conduct and maintain consistent, complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary MQ-9 procurement quantity.”
In response to the report, the Air Force mostly agreed with the inspector general’s findings, but Maj. Gen. Scott Zobrist pushed back by arguing that MQ-9 drones are needed to make up the shortfall in systems which have insufficient intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.
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