Senators press DOD over drone training

Senators press DOD over drone training
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Leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday pressed the head of the Defense Department to assert more control over how U.S. drone pilots are trained.

After a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this month said that the Pentagon has “challenges” training its drone pilots, committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedGabbard calls for congressional inquiry over Afghanistan war report Gillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members MORE (D-R.I.) put Defense Secretary Ash Carter on notice.

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“We are disturbed that the Department of Defense has no standardized training program for UAS [unmanned aerial system] pilots and personnel,” they wrote in a letter to Carter on Wednesday, using the formal name for drones. “The continued lack of consistent and uniform training standards is simply unacceptable.”

Earlier this month, the GAO found that a shortage of drone pilots in the Air Force has meant that many pilots have not been able to finish their training. The Air Force has predicted that it will be hundreds of pilots short of the 1,200 it says it needs.

The Army has also had problems making sure that all pilots complete their required training duties and has lowered standards in response to make sure there are enough instructors available.

On Wednesday, McCain and Reed told Carter that he was responsible for fixing the situation.

“We urge you to focus senior leaders in the department on these issues, and develop and implement a coherent UAS organizational, manpower, and training strategy to ensure our combatant commanders get the highly trained and proficient operators of these systems they need to protect our warfighters and defeat our adversaries,” they wrote.

“In addition to collecting critical intelligence, the Department’s UAS programs carry out sensitive strike missions that should require high standards and specialized training," they added.