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.

The Trump Budget's $1.2 Trillion in 'Phantom Revenues'

Trump budget arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington
KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

President Trump’s 2020 budget includes up to $1.2 trillion in “potentially phantom revenues” — money that comes from taxes the administration opposes or from tax hikes that face strong opposition from businesses, The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports, citing data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That total, covering 2020 through 2029, includes as much as $390 billion in taxes created under the Affordable Care Act, which the president wants to repeal.

The $1.2 trillion in questionable revenue projections is in addition to the White House budget’s projected deficits of $7.3 trillion for the 10-year period. That total is itself questionable, given that the president’s budget relies on optimistic assumptions about economic growth and some unrealistic spending cuts, meaning that the deficits could be significantly higher than projected.

Chart of the Day: Trump's Huge Proposed Cuts to Public Investment

Trump budget arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington
KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Ben Ritz of the Progressive Policy Institute slams President Trump’s new budget:

“It would dismantle public investments that lay the foundation for economic growth, resulting in less innovation. It would shred the social safety net, resulting in more poverty. It would rip away access to affordable health care, resulting in more disease. It would cut taxes for the rich, resulting in more income inequality. It would bloat the defense budget, resulting in more wasteful spending. And all this would add up to a higher national debt than the policies in President Obama’s final budget proposal.”

Here’s Ritz’s breakdown of Trump’s proposed spending cuts to public investment in areas such as infrastructure, education and scientific research:

Chart of the Day: The Decline in Corporate Taxes

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Since roughly the end of World War Two, individual income taxes in the U.S. have equaled about 8 percent of GDP. By contrast, the Tax Policy Center says, “corporate income tax revenues declined from 6% of GDP in 1950s to under 2% in the 1980s through the Great Recession, and have averaged 1.4% of GDP since then.”

Tax Refunds Rebound

Flickr / Chris Potter
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Smaller refunds in the first few weeks of the current tax season were shaping up to be a political problem for Republicans, but new data from the IRS shows that the value of refund checks has snapped back and is now running 1.3 percent higher than last year. The average refund through February 23 last year was $3,103, while the average refund through February 22 of 2019 was $3,143 – a difference of $40. The chart below from J.P. Morgan shows how refunds performed over the last 3 years.