Dear Pentagon, Maybe Those Troop Benefits Help You (by Retaining Troops!)

The Pentagon did not prepare to hire and train enough people to use the drones they purchased.


As we all know, one of our major military advantages is technological. But that doesn’t mean that the American soldier is unimportant. I find it ironic that only a few days after we find that the Pentagon is cutting benefits for the troops, we get this report about the Air Force: “Exclusive: U.S. Drone Fleet at ‘Breaking Point,’ Air Force Says.”

The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of drones is being strained to the “breaking point,” according to senior military officials and an internal service memo acquired by The Daily Beast. And it’s happening right when the unmanned aircraft are most needed to fight ISIS.

The Air Force has enough MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. It just doesn’t have the manpower to operate those machines. The Air Force’s situation is so dire that Air Combat Command (ACC), which trains and equips the service’s combat forces, is balking at filling the Pentagon’s ever increasing demands for more drone flights.

“ACC believes we are about to see a perfect storm of increased COCOM [Combatant Commander] demand, accession reductions, and outflow increases that will damage the readiness and combat capability of the MQ-1/9 enterprise for years to come,” reads an internal Air Force memo from ACC commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, addressed to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. “I am extremely concerned.”

“ACC will continue to non-concur to increased tasking beyond our FY15 [fiscal year 2015] force offering and respectfully requests your support in ensuring the combat viability of the MQ-1/9 platform,” Carlisle added.

In other words, the Air Force is saying that its drone force has been stretched to its limits. “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.”

So whose brilliant idea was it to stock drones up for a time that they were needed, but to not bother to recruit and train sufficient personnel to actually use the drones. Notice that it seems as if the same powers that are complaining about the cost of troops are expecting the drones to somehow have pilots available. They are like Pharaoh demanding that the Air Force make bricks without straw.

Of course, in all probability, no one person decided anything. The Defense Department is a complicated bureaucracy. But that tells you what kind of system we are relying upon for national defense.

What are the chances the drone manufacturer who fulfilled the giant order for the Pentagon had no political connection that helped ensure that they got the contract?

I’m not inclined to weep over a shortage of usable drones, but if there are legitimate defensive uses for them, then the Pentagon’s incompetence has left us vulnerable.