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New Bill Calls for Pentagon Unmanned Systems Office

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Triton unmanned aircraft system completes its first flight May 22, 2013. US Navy Photo

Triton unmanned aircraft system completes its first flight May 22, 2013. US Navy Photo

The Department of Defense would be required to establish an office to specifically manage unmanned systems if language proposed in a new Asia-Pacific Region Priority bill holds.

“It is the policy of the United States to maintain an independent organization within the Department of Defense to develop and coordinate the unmanned air, land and sea capabilities of the United States to ensure unity of effort and the prudent allocation of resources in accordance with military needs,” reads the legislation proposed by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).

The bill was proposed on Monday and would have to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate before being signed into law by the President.

Passage of the bill is not a foregone conclusion.

The bill would require the Secretary of Defense to appoint a Director of Defense Unmanned Systems who would have oversight of all unmanned systems within the Defense Department.

The new office would coordinate all of the Pentagon’s unmanned systems acquisitions, research and development, experimentation, fielding “to ensure unity of effort and interagency awareness of emerging capabilities.”

The new unmanned systems office would make recommendations — in coordination with the Joint Staff and other strategic planning offices — on how best to integrate unmanned systems with existing operational concepts.

The office would also help to determine future operating concepts that could be enabled by new technologies such as advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

Analyst Mark Gunzinger at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said that the idea is an interesting one.

“There should be an unmanned systems champion within DoD that can work integration issues across the services and be an advocate for developing next-generation capabilities,” he told USNI News on Tuesday.

  • Taxpayer71

    1. It sounds like the bill needs to clarify the scope of the proposed office. Would it include all unmanned systems (space, airborne, surface, subsurface) and just ISR or all mission areas (as IO, strike, refueling, comms relay, mine countermeasures, etc).

    2. As described, the new office would coordinate all of the Pentagon’s unmanned systems acquisitions, research and development, experimentation, and fielding. If the concept is just coordination rather than resource control, USD(AT&L) can do it under current structures.

    3. The new office would help determine future operating concepts and make recommendations on how best to integrate unmanned systems with existing operational concepts. This office would have to be something akin to a Defense Agency as the OSD Staff/SECDEF would still have to be objective overseers/reviewers. It would also require staff and funding for among other things, studies and analyses. Where would it get requirements or are all problems candidates for unmanned solutions?

    4. Perhaps some lessons learned with the establishment and termination of the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) would be useful in consideration of this proposed legislation. Overall, it doesn’t appear to make much sense.

  • Marvin Iavecchia

    My humble opinions… the new office should cover down on all unmanned systems to include the various sensors on those systems REGARDLESS of ACAT. In some cases, those same sensors are found on manned platforms and are typically Service level ACATs so not a cut-and-dry situation (like most things). The Joint Staff is standing up an Unmanned Capabilities Executive Steering Group and sub working group in the meantime scoped to look at all unmanned domains and hopefully emowered to drill down to these small ACAT sensors. OSD still is running their UAS Task Force and various IPTs focused on Frequency & Bandwidth, Airspace Integration and Interoperability but we need singular empowered DoD/JOINT oversight and governance to syncronize efforts across Services and inter-agency so that all these sensors produce standardized non-proprietary data so the IC can FINALLY start developing the robust analysis/distribution tools necessary to ultimately reduce the huge force structure (civilian and military) overhead requirement for processing/distributing manually. Identifying the top DoD/Joint interoperability priorities and ruthlessly enforcing (from program tooth to tail), I believe, will go far in solving many problems in the coming fiscally constrained years ahead…