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.
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.
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.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Monday that tax reform has to happen this year, even if it means Congress has to stay in session longer. "I think we have a unique window in time right now, but unfortunately we keep losing days to this window,” he said. “The opportunity is now." House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week he’d keep members over Christmas if that’s what it takes. And Ryan predicted Monday that tax reform would pass the House by early next month and then get through the Senate to reach the president’s desk by the end of the year. But there are plenty of skeptics out there, given the hurdles. Issac Boltansky, an analyst at the investment bank Compass Point, told Business Insider, "The idea of getting tax reform done this year is a farcical fantasy. Lawmakers have neither the time nor the capacity to formulate and clear a tax reform package in 2017."
Passing a budget resolution for 2018 through the Senate will open a procedural door to a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. The resolution is expected to reach the Senate floor this week, although there are questions about whether Republicans have the 50 votes they need to pass it. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) said this weekend that she would vote for it and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is likely a “yes” as well, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN) is reportedly a likely “no” and John McCain (R-AZ) appears questionable. Now it looks like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MI) won't be back in Washington this week to vote on the resolution due to health problems. The Hill says Cochran’s absence puts tax reform “on knife’s edge.”
Trump and the GOP still have work to do if they want to convince Americans that their tax plan won’t mostly help the rich. A CBS News Nation Tracker poll released Sunday finds that 58 percent say the tax reforms being discussed favor the wealthy, while 19 percent say it treats everyone equally and 18 percent say it favors the middle class.
The poll also found that 39 percent say that cutting the deficit should be a priority, even if it means taxes stay the same. About half as many people said cutting taxes should be prioritized even if the deficit rises.
The poll, conducted by YouGov, surveyed 2,371 U.S. adults between October 11 and 13. Its margin of error is 2.5 percent.