Drones are expensive. Aircraft like General Atomics's MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper cost millions of pounds piece, while the cost of maintaining the fleet stretches into the high tens of billions dollars over their lifespans. The Pentagon's internal watchdog is aware of this, and recently lambasted the USAF for not justifying the purchase of 46 Reapers—potentially wasting £5.8 billion of US taxpayers' money.
That's a lot of taxpayer money! In fact, that's well over half of what the US Department of Education spends on veterans' education benefits. How could the USAF be so reckless? Well, according to the inspector general, the main problem with the unjustified purchases is the simple fact that the USAF can't justify it. Or rather, the branch's air combat command didn't even try. In inspector general speak, they "did not conduct and maintain consistent, complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary MQ-9 procurement quantity." The commanders just spent the money.
The USAF, perhaps obviously, takes a different view of the matter. "The air combat command's director of plans said the Pentagon study significantly overstated the potential waste costs, pegging it at £395 for 46 Reapers instead of nearly £6bn, and underestimated the stress on the air force to provide sufficient drones for commanders," reports The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman who obtained a copy of the inspector general's original report. The USAF also claims that it's buying 346 drones instead of the 401 that the inspector general says it's buying.
Well, whatever. We could let the military bureaucrats bark back and forth about the specifics for years, but there's a bit of a trend that backs up the inspector general's claims. Remember the Pentagon's trillion dollar plane that keeps getting grounded, won't be able to shoot its gun for years, and probably isn't even that great in the first place? (It's called the F-35.) With past examples of wasteful spending in the US military, it's easy to believe that the USAF might've screwed up to the tune of nearly £6 billion. Meanwhile, nobody even wants to fly the damn things. At least the USAF isn't just melting down the drones like the Pentagon had to do with$1 billion (£660 million) worth of bullets recently. At least there's that. [The Guardian]
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