Petty Bureaucratic Infighting Leaves the Army Short of Helicopter Pilots
Policy + Politics

Petty Bureaucratic Infighting Leaves the Army Short of Helicopter Pilots

REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

A new audit by the Pentagon’s Inspector General shows just how costly military turf battles can be, both in terms of lives and treasure.

“The Army did not provide adequate funding and training for UH-60 [Black Hawk] pilots on the new equipment,” because Army officials “did not agree which Army organization was responsible for funding and conducting UH-60 new equipment training,” the report stated.

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On the face of it, this looks like a ridiculous and irresponsible bout of bureaucratic infighting, but with potentially serious repercussions.

In late June, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky helicopter division signed a $3.8 billion Department of Defense contract for 257 UH-60 Black Hawk copters to be used by the U.S. Army and several foreign military customers over the coming five years, according to a report by Task& The iconic UH-60s – with four blades and a medium lift -- are workhorses for the Army, U.S. Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve.

Yet because of the gamesmanship and buck passing by a number of branch offices, the Army will need $152.9 million more than it has budgeted to provide new equipment training for a total of 1,390 H-60 pilots from fiscal 2018 through 2035.

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It goes without saying that $152.9 million is small change within the massive DoD, which boasts an annual operating budget of nearly $600 billion. However, unless the budget problem is resolved, the Army National Guard will have a shortage of 160 trained H-60 pilots by 2026, according to the IG’s report. Or worse still — undertrained pilots who might lose more than the hardware.