Thursday, May 28, 2015

SENATORS McCAIN AND REED CALL FOR STANDARDIZED TRAINING FOR UAS PILOTS


Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter today regarding standardized training for pilots of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). A recent GAO report highlighted insufficient training, inconsistent standards, and critical manning shortfalls in this critical mission area. “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,” Senators McCain and Reed wrote. The text of the letter appears below.

Dear Secretary Carter,
We are all aware that unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are an essential element in America’s warfighting arsenal.  However, a recent GAO report highlights insufficient training, inconsistent standards, and critical manning shortfalls in this critical mission area.  Despite years of effort to expand the Air Force’s unmanned combat air patrol capacity, the service has continually fallen short of its own manpower projections.  The Air Force currently estimates a shortfall of nearly 400 MQ-1/9 aircraft pilots to sustain the regular Air Force requirement of 1,200 pilots.  That “shortfall” may in fact be somewhat misleading as there is a distinct possibility the Air Force requirement may be understated.  These pilot shortages have constrained training and placed extreme strain on the existing community of pilots and sensor operators.  The Army has attempted to mitigate similar shortages by lowering training standards to increase availability of instructors in the field.  This action, coupled with pulling enlisted UAS pilots off-task to perform unrelated additional duties, has resulted in UAS pilots receiving insufficient flying training and causing negative impacts on UAS unit readiness levels.
We are disturbed that the Department of Defense has no standardized training program for UAS pilots and personnel.  The continued lack of consistent and uniform training standards is simply unacceptable.  In addition to collecting critical intelligence, the Department’s UAS programs carry out sensitive strike missions that should require high standards and specialized training.  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.   We look forward to your response.
We thank you for your cooperation in this matter and for your continued service to the Department and our Nation.

Sincerely,

John McCain
Chairman
Senate Armed Services Committee

Jack Reed
Ranking Member

Senate Armed Services Committee

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