A 2014 Pentagon roadmap for unmanned integrated systems reports that there are nearly 1,200 drones capable of flying over 3,500 feet in the inventories of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. That, for the record, is a lot. And it's because of that that some critics are suggesting the Department of Defense simply put all its drone capability in the hands of a single service.
"There needs to be someone with oversight that is actually pulling together and assuring the interdependency of the systems that each of the individual services are developing," retired USAF Lieutenant General and former head of the service's drone and intelligence operations, David Deptula, told Defense One. "That would go a long way to solving many of the challenges that exist in terms of providing sufficient capability to meet the demand that's out there for UAVs."
Deptula is something of an authority on the single-service drone plan. He led the USAF's charge for umbrella control of the still fledgling DoD drone fleet back in 2005. The flying service argued that with vast quantities of hardware being purchased up, leaving army, navy and USAF to play with their own drones could waste a lot of money and impact operational cohesion. As D1 reports, though, the army and navy didn't appreciate what they viewed as an air force power grab, going as far as forming a "coalition" according to one Army officer, "to basically tell the Air Force to back off."
Air Force brass isn't really keen on getting back into that fight again. "I don't think the debate would be much different right now than it was then," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said during a press briefing, D1 reports. But Deptula is sticking to his guns, arguing for an executive agent that would oversee support and operational missions between more than one service.
The notion of an executive agent was to introduce some unification in planning UAVs across all of the services," Deptula said, not "controlling everybody's UAVs."
What are your thoughts? With drones and manned aircraft operating throughout theaters, would putting things in the hands of one service be a smart move, or are the Army and Navy's fears justified? Have your say in Comments.