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.

Chart of the Day: Dem Candidates Face Their Own Tax Plans

Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren participate in the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston
MIKE BLAKE/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Democratic presidential candidates are proposing a variety of new taxes to pay for their preferred social programs. Bloomberg’s Laura Davison and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou took a look at how the top four candidates would fare under their own tax proposals.

Quote of the Day: The Health Care Revolution That Wasn’t

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

“The fact is very little medical care is shoppable. We become good shoppers when we are repeat shoppers. If you buy a new car every three years, you can become an informed shopper. There is no way to become an informed shopper for your appendix. You only get your appendix out once.”

— David Newman, former director of the Health Care Cost Institute, quoted in an article Thursday by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times. Levey says the “consumer revolution” in health care – in which patients shop around for the best prices, forcing doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms to compete with lower prices – hasn’t materialized, but the higher deductibles that were part of the effort are very much in effect. “High-deductible health insurance was supposed to make American patients into smart shoppers,” Levey writes. “Instead, they got stuck with medical bills they can't afford.”

Congressional Report of the Day: The US Pays Nearly 4 Times More for Drugs

A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D.  at a local pharmacy
REUTERS/George Frey
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The House Ways and Means Committee released a new analysis of drug prices in the U.S. compared to 11 other developed nations, and the results, though predictable, aren’t pretty. Here are the key findings from the report:

  • The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied widely.
  • U.S. drug prices were nearly four times higher than average prices compared to similar countries.
  • U.S. consumers pay significantly more for drugs than other countries, even when accounting for rebates.
  • The U.S. could save $49 billion annually on Medicare Part D alone by using average drug prices for comparator countries.

Read the full congressional report here.

Chart of the Day: How the US Ranks for Retirement

Ken Bosma / Flickr
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The U.S. ranks 18th for retiree well-being among developed nations, according to the latest Global Retirement Index from Natixis, the French corporate and investment bank. The U.S. fell two spots in the ranking this year, due in part to rising economic inequality and poor performance for life expectancy.