The Department of Defense (DOD) requested about $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2010 for new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and for expanded capabilities in existing ones. To support ongoing operations, the Air Force and Army have acquired a greater number of larger systems. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which (1) plans were in place to account for the personnel, facilities, and communications infrastructure needed to support Air Force and Army UAS inventories; (2) DOD addressed challenges that affect the ability of the Air Force and the Army to train personnel for UAS operations; and (3) DOD updated its publications that articulate doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures to reflect the knowledge gained from using UAS in ongoing operations. Focusing on UAS programs supporting ongoing operations, GAO reviewed the services' program and funding plans in light of DOD's requirements definition and acquisition policy; interviewed UAS personnel in the United States and in Iraq about training experiences; and reviewed joint, multiservice, and service-specific publications.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||1. To ensure that UAS inventories are fully supported in the long term, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Army, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, to conduct comprehensive planning as part of the decision-making process to field new systems or to further expand existing capabilities to account for factors necessary to operate and sustain these programs. At a minimum, this planning should be based on a rigorous analysis of the personnel and facilities needed to operate and sustain UAS and include the development of detailed action plans that identify milestones for tracking progress and synchronize funding and personnel.|
|Department of Defense||2. To ensure that the Air Force can address the near-term risk of disruption to the communications infrastructure network used to control UAS missions, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to establish a milestone for finalizing a near-term plan to provide for the continuity of UAS operations that can be rapidly implemented in the event of a disruption and is based on a detailed analysis of available options.|
|Department of Defense||3. To ensure that DOD can comprehensively resolve challenges that affect the ability of the Air Force and the Army to train personnel for UAS operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in coordination with the military services and other organizations as appropriate, to develop a results-oriented training strategy that provides detailed information on the steps that DOD will take to (1) identify and address the effects of competition and airspace restrictions on UAS training, (2) increase the opportunities that Army ground units and Air Force UAS personnel have to train together in a joint environment, (3) maximize the use of available assets in training exercises, and (4) upgrade UAS simulation capabilities to enhance training. At a minimum, the strategy should describe overarching goals, the priority and interrelationships among initiatives, progress made to date, milestones for achieving goals, and the resources required to accomplish the strategy's goals.|
|Department of Defense||4. To help ensure that all stakeholders, including unmanned aircraft operators, military planners, and ground units, have comprehensive and timely information on UAS practices and capabilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Army to assign personnel to update key UAS publications.|
|Department of Defense||5. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force, the Secretary of the Army, and the Secretary of the Navy to take steps to coordinate the efforts to develop publications for those UAS where there is commonality among the services.|