Friday, April 15, 2016

Interservice Competition Over Drones
Competition is usually seen as a good thing. The rivalry spurs creativeness, innovation and cost-effectiveness. The three main military branches have been competing over access to technology, weaponry and budget allocations since their creation. When the U.S. created atomic weapons, each pitched their own program; one by land, one by air and one by sea. However, should some technology be placed under the control of a single agency?

The US drone program is a centerpiece to President Obamas battle against terrorism. It was announced in late 2015 that the Pentagon planned to drastically expand drone flights over the next four years.[1] Drones are constantly used in all sorts of military activities today, whether targeted killings or observations. However, as more and more drones enter airspace, possible problems could arise. One such problem is collisions between manned and unmanned aircrafts.[2] This allegedly has happened before with a drone and a C-130.[3]A little over 10 years ago, the Air Force tried to become the single executive agent over drones. This led to a huge push back by the army and navy.
One reason to allow each branch to operate and control their own drones is due to the difference in how each operates them. For example, the Air Force uses its drones overseas and controls them from a US base.[4] In contrast, the army uses them along with army units and controls them from the territory they area stationed in.[5] However, without one controlling branch, further sense-and-avoid technology will need to be developed in order to prevent any airborne collisions.[6]

I believe this excess cost is worth each branch having autonomy over drones.  This autonomy results in a freedom to quickly act against time sensitive and immediate threats without any delays. In a world where warfare is drastically improved by drone capabilities and a soldier’s safety is greatly improved by being removed from the battlefield, autonomy is worth the cost.

[1] Lubold, Gordan; “Pentagon to Sharply Expand US Drone Flights over the Next Four Years”; Aug. 16, 2015; Wall Street Journal;
[2] Weisgerber, Marcus; “Should One US Service Rule the Military’s Drones?”; Defense One; Aug. 24, 2015;
[3] See Gates v. the Air Force;
[4] Supra note 2.
[5] Supra note 2.
[6] Supra note 2.

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