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Air Force Official Testifies On UAV Executive Agent Issue

The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle is a medium-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft. The Predator's primary mission is interdiction and conducting armed reconnaissance against critical, perishable targets. When the Predator is not actively pursuing its primary mission, it acts as the joint forces air component commander-owned theater asset for reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of the joint forces commander. (U.S. Air Force photo)
by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
Washington (AFNS) Apr 23, 2007
The deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance explained why Air Force leaders support the idea of creating an executive agency for unmanned aerial vehicles before the House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee April 19 here. Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula joined other Department of Defense representatives in providing testimony to the HASC.

The plan, originally proposed by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, calls for the Air Force to oversee the fielding, integration, and operation of medium- to high-altitude UAVs (those that operate above the coordinating altitude, notionally 3,500 feet). The executive agency plan would streamline acquisition, employment and overall mission effectiveness, General Deptula said.

For example, although the Air Force already had the MQ-1 Predator in active use, the Army performed its own research and development for the MQ-1C Warrior, a derivative of the Predator that's produced by the same contractor. The Navy and Marines are also looking for new systems, and so hopefully there is a lesson to be learned, General Deptula said.

"We want to work in a unified fashion when purchasing these systems," the general said. "Doing so would be more cost-effective, freeing up funds for other programs across all the services."

Without an executive agency, the services will likely continue their separate design and procurement efforts, and the DOD will have forfeited the considerable savings it could have realized. Additionally, DOD will have lost an opportunity to create and harness the interservice synergies that would result from building upon -- rather than duplicating -- each service's strengths, General Moseley said.

The subcommittee members were most interested in why the Air Force believes there should be an executive agency at all. The other service representatives gave their rationale as to why they oppose the idea.

While the controversial proposal has met with skepticism from the other branches of service, the commander of the Joint Unmanned Aircraft Systems (JUAS) Center of Excellence (COE) said had "not put as much effort into defining 'executive agency' as they could have," nor did they seek much input from combatant commanders.

General Deptula stressed the agency would not solely be an Air Force operation, but would include other service participation and leverage the work of the JUAS COE and the Army's UAV COE. Executive agency efforts would include research, development, test and evaluation activities, procurement, logistics, and training to "achieve efficiencies and gain effectiveness.

"Each of the services has their expertise," General Deptula said. "It works best when a joint commander can reach out and utilize all of the options at hand."

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ScanEagle, a fully autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Boeing and Insitu, Inc., has surpassed 1,000 flight hours in support of Australian Army operations in southern Iraq. Operating with the Overwatch Battle Group (West)-2 on Operation Catalyst, ScanEagle has successfully completed 172 sorties in less than five months.

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