August 11, 2014

The U.S. Needs More Drones

By Paul Scharre

Al-Qaeda is morphing and metastasizing, spreading like a cancer in an arc of jihadism from the deserts of Northern Mali through Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Islamic extremists continue to gain ground in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized more than a dozen airstrikes as fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threaten to take Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is cutting one of the most vital tools against this threat: loitering unmanned aircraft, aka drones, to provide persistent surveillance of terrorist networks.

While DOD has had drones flying over Iraq for over a month, a drastic shortfall in global supply means that their presence in Iraq is at the expense of another vital mission elsewhere. And yet not only is DOD not moving to address this shortfall, it is taking steps to reduce its drone fleet, a dangerous move that will make it harder to keep tabs on a growing and changing terrorist threat.

In its recent Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon announced a 15 percent cut to its Predator and Reaper fleet, the bulk of the unmanned aircraft currently used to surveil terrorists around the globe. This isn’t because there is an excess of capacity. Demand for airborne surveillance for critical missions like countering terrorism far outstrips supply. It’s because the ugly disease of “next war-itis” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly warned about during his tenure has flared up in the Pentagon yet again.

Read the full op-ed at Defense One

  • Video
    • January 23, 2020
    Winning the Next War

    Chinese and Russian capabilities to exploit vulnerabilities in America's current way of war have grown. Without major changes to how it fights its wars, does the United States...

    By Robert O. Work & Chris Dougherty

  • Podcast
    • January 21, 2020
    Working National Security on John McCain’s Presidential Campaign

    Richard Fontaine spent years advising leading figures in American foreign policy, but working for the late Sen. John McCain was unlike anything he had experienced before. Now ...

    By Richard Fontaine & Ilan Goldenberg

  • Podcast
    • January 21, 2020
    Iran Conflict Could Shift To Cyberspace, Experts Warn

    Hackers linked to Iran are probing American companies for vulnerabilities, cybersecurity researchers and U.S. government officials say. The warnings suggest that the next pha...

    By Kara Frederick

  • Commentary
    • Defense News
    • January 21, 2020
    Interservice rivalries: A force for good

    It’s no secret that the military services fight hard to protect their shares of the defense budget. Just last week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday made his case...

    By Susanna V. Blume & Molly Parrish

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia