The Pentagon plans a dramatic expansion of the number of daily drone sorties flown around the globe over the next several years, according to the Associated Press. What makes this noteworthy is that this will for the first time expand the mission beyond the Air Force, a defense official said.
The plan reflects a high-level awareness that the Air Force's remotely piloted vehicle fleet can no longer meet the forcewide demand for combat air patrols flown by drone pilots, mainly due to severe pilot shortages, according to Military Times.
The decision to add Army and civilian-operated missions to the mix was triggered because the Air Force — which had been running about 65 combat air patrol missions a day — asked to decrease that number to 60 because of stress on the force. But 60 patrols don't come close to meeting the demands of top military commanders facing growing security threats around the world, the AP reported.
Senior U.S. officials said that while drones have been used largely to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs may shift in the coming years.
Pentagon teams studying alternative lockups to Guantánamo Bay visited Fort Leavenworth, Kan., this week and head to the Charleston, S.C., brig next week as part of research necessary for a proposed closure plan that swiftly stirred opposition in Congress, according to the Miami Herald newspaper.
“Not on my watch will any terrorist be placed in Kansas,” said GOP Sen. Pat Roberts in a statement. He and then fellow Kansas senator Sam Brownback first opposed the use of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth for war-on-terror captives in 2008, and for a time put a hold on the 2009 appointment of Army Secretary John McHugh over consideration of moving Guantánamo captives to Kansas.
Now Brownback is Kansas’ governor and still opposes the idea of housing Guantanamo Bay visitors in Kansas. “The citizens of Kansas do not support moving terrorists to the heartland of America,” he said. And Roberts is championing legislation — The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act — that would make it tougher to repatriate any of Guantánamo’s last116 captives or resettle them in other countries, including the 52 long-held prisoners currently approved for transfer with security arrangements.
Capitol Hill’s latest push to reform the Pentagon acquisitions system could have a big impact on thousands of mid-career military officers who rotate through “program manager” billets that help the Defense Department develop and buy new weapons systems and other military gear, according to Military Times.
Increasing “accountability,” lawmakers say, is the primary factor in changing the rules for how the military buys its equipment from the private sector. Political support for acquisition reforms have intensified as budget pressures are forcing the Pentagon to make hard decisions about modernization programs.
Some final versions of the proposed legislation in Congress would require the program manager to “enter into a performance agreement” spelling out key “parameters” and agreeing that “the program manager will be accountable for meeting such parameters” according to Military Times.
Some defense experts have suggested that could include financial penalties for those officers if the programs ultimately fail to meet expectations.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.