Congress Funds Killer Drones the Air Force Says It Can’t Handle
By Spencer Ackerman
May 7, 2012
The Air Force says it needs to scale back buying its flying deadly robots while it gets enough human beings in place to operate them and interpret the surveillance data they collect. Congress decided that the flyboys might need more cash, just in case.
The Pentagon asked Congress for only around $4 million for the MQ-1 Predator drone and about $1.7 billion for the next-generation MQ-9 Reaper over the next year. The House Armed Services Committee, which on Tuesday finished its version of next year’s defense bill (.pdf), decided that wasn’t enough for either program. If the committee’s version of the bill makes it through the legislative process, the Air Force will get about $23 million more for the Predators, and an extra $180 million for the Reapers.
To be clear, that cash isn’t necessarily for extra flying robots, and there are lots of legislative hurdles to overcome before this bill becomes law. The Air Force stopped buying new Predators in 2010 and upgraded to Reapers. Chances are the new Predator cash is for replacement sensors or spare parts. And about $26 million worth of cash for the Reapers, similarly, is for spare parts. But the committee also wants to give the Air Force nearly $159 million for 12 new Reaper planes.
That’s not all. The committee also boosted funding for the Hellfire missiles the drones carry — to $61 million, some $13 million more than the Pentagon asked.