GAO: Pentagon has ‘challenges’ training drone pilots

GAO: Pentagon has ‘challenges’ training drone pilots
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Pilots who remotely control drones for the Army and Air Force may not be getting the training they should be, the Government Accountability Office said on Thursday.

“The Army and the Air Force face challenges ensuring that the pilots who remotely operate their unmanned aerial systems (UAS) complete their required training,” the GAO, which acts as Congress’s investigative arm, said in a report.

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In particular, the GAO found that the branches did not have enough pilots, which has forced those among the ranks to skip some training in order to fulfill their missions.

An analysis of some Air Force records, for instance, found that just 35 percent of drone pilots completed all of their required training. Pilots in those units told the GAO that they were not able to finish their training because “their units had shortages of UAS pilots.” 

In 2014, the GAO found that the Air Force did not have as many drone pilots as it needed, and the new report confirmed that the shortages are ongoing. The Air Force has begun taking action on some recommendations the GAO made at the time, it said, though has not implemented any of them fully.

At the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, drone training squadrons are staffed at just 63 percent of planned levels, which the GAO claimed is a “key reason” there are shortages of pilots across the Air Force.

Additionally, the office confirmed a March Army review that found that most pilots in some Army units did not complete their required training tasks in fiscal 2014, and fretted that status reports don’t require updates on drone pilot training.

“[A]s a result, the Army does not know the full extent to which pilots have been trained and are therefore ready to be deployed,” it said.