The Department of Defense's (DOD) use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continues to increase. In 2000, DOD components had fewer than 50 unmanned aircraft in their inventory. By May 2008, they had more than 6,000. However, DOD faces challenges, such as UAS acquisition and the integration of UAS into joint combat operations. GAO has made a series of recommendations to address challenges, including the need for a UAS strategic plan. To improve upon the management and use of UAS, DOD has implemented several actions, such as establishing new task forces. GAO was asked to (1) identify key DOD efforts to improve the management and operational use of UAS and (2) assess the extent to which these efforts constitute an overarching organizational framework to guide and oversee UAS efforts. GAO reviewed DOD documents such as directives and memorandums, and interviewed agency officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||1. To develop a fully integrated framework to sustain progress and resolve long-standing challenges in the management and operational use of UAS, the Secretary of Defense should designate a single departmental entity that is responsible and accountable for integrating all cross-cutting DOD efforts related to improving the management and operational use of UAS. This entity should be supported by an implementation team with dedicated resources and funding and should serve as the DOD point of coordination for all UAS initiatives; integrate all UAS activities throughout DOD; and as part of the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process, make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense in determining the priority of the department's UAS-related initiatives.|
|Department of Defense||2. To develop a fully integrated framework to sustain progress and resolve long-standing challenges in the management and operational use of UAS, the Secretary of Defense should define, in directives or other publications as appropriate, the roles, responsibilities, and relationships among various UAS-related entities to facilitate communication within DOD and among external stakeholders.|
|Department of Defense||3. To develop a fully integrated framework to sustain progress and resolve long-standing challenges in the management and operational use of UAS, the Secretary of Defense should develop a comprehensive and integrated UAS strategic plan, in coordination with DOD components, to align UAS goals and funding with long-term departmental planning efforts. The UAS strategic plan should, at a minimum, include elements such as a comprehensive mission statement, long-term goals and an explanation of how the goals are to be achieved, a timeline with milestones to track progress toward short- and long-term goals, and a determination of the resources needed to close any current capability and capacity gaps. In addition, the strategic plan should show clear linkages between UAS initiatives and other comprehensive departmental planning efforts, such as the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Integration Roadmap and the development of joint capability area strategic plans.|