Undertrained Military Drone Pilots Have Senators Steaming

Undertrained Military Drone Pilots Have Senators Steaming

A small drone helicopter operated by a paparazzi records singer Beyonce Knowles-Carter (not seen) as she rides the Cyclone rollercoaster while filming a music video on Coney Island in New York in this August 29, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File
CARLO ALLEGRI
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill sent a scathing letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter this week slamming the Pentagon for allowing Air Force and Army pilots to operate predator drones without completing their necessary training. 

The revelation came in a report published last week by the Government Accountability Office that said most drone pilots never finished all of their training because of pilot shortages and a lack of planning and strategy within the Defense Department. 

Related: Undertrained U.S. Drone Pilots Put War Effort at Risk 

The report said that just about 35 percent of Air Force pilots had completed training for all their required missions. Separately, the Army had not been keeping sufficient pilot training records. “As a result, the Army does not know the full extent to which pilots have been trained and are therefore ready to be deployed,” the report said. 

In the letter to Carter, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking member of the committee, said they were “disturbed that the Department of Defense has no standardized training program for [unmanned aerial system] pilots and personnel.” 

"The continued lack of consistent and uniform training standards is simply unacceptable. In addition to collecting critical intelligence, the department's UAS programs carry out sensitive strike missions that should require high standards and specialized training,” the letter said. 

Related: The Duck Drone That Could Change the Navy 

The senators slammed the Air Force for its lax training efforts and demanded that the military improve its process and resolve the pilot shortages. 

"These pilot shortages have constrained training and place extreme strain on the existing community of pilots and sensor operators,” the senators wrote. 

The GAO first called attention to the drone pilot shortages and training concerns last year. The auditors said that the military attempted to resolve the shortages by hiring more instructors, but the new report shows that the instructors, too, lacked sufficient training.

Number of the Day: 5.5 Percent

The debate over national health care aside, more Americans today say they get "excellent health care" than did in the early 2000s, according to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/150806/rate-own-healthcare-quality-coverage-excellent.aspx" target="_blank"
Getty Images
By Yuval Rosenberg

Health care spending in the U.S. will grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 2017 through 2026, according to new estimates published in Health Affairs by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The projections mean that health care spending would rise as a share of the economy from 17.9 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2026.

Part of the Shutdown-Ending Deal: $31 Billion More in Tax Cuts

The U.S. Capitol building is lit at dusk ahead of planned votes on tax reform in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files
Joshua Roberts
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Margot Sanger-Katz and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times: “The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health care-related taxes.”

“Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.”

IRS Paid $20 Million to Collect $6.7 Million in Tax Debts

The IRS provides second chances to get your tax return right with Form 1040X.
iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to use private debt collection agencies to pursue “inactive tax receivables,” but the financial results are not encouraging so far, according to a new taxpayer advocate report out Wednesday.

In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received $6.7 million from taxpayers whose debts were assigned to private collection agencies, but the agencies were paid $20 million – “three times the amount collected,” the report helpfully points out.

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Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan See Small GDP Boost from Tax Bill

Belize sure is bumpy.
Wikipedia
By Yuval Rosenberg

Goldman Sachs economists see the tax bill adding 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in 2018 and 2019 while JP Morgan forecasts a similar gain of 0.3 percentage points next year and 0.2 percentage points the year after.

Goldman’s analysts add that federal spending, which is likely to grow more quickly next year than it has recently, will bring the total fiscal boost to around 0.6 percentage points for 2018 and 0.4 percentage points in 2019.

Both banks see deficits likely rising above $1 trillion, or about 5 percent of GDP, in 2019.