Conflict & Justice

Pentagon may cut back drone program


Demonstrators disrupt the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's nominee to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 7, 2013. The hard-nosed architect of the US drone war against Al Qaeda, Brennan faces difficult questions about secret assassinations from senators weighing his nomination to lead the CIA. Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, cleared the room after several outbursts by protesters.


Saul Loeb

The Pentagon is considering scaling back its drone program, which has seen significant expansion in recent years.

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, said senior leaders are analyzing and discussing the military's need for drones, according to the Associated Press.

Hostage said the current number of active drones may already be more than the Pentagon can afford to keep in the air. The assessment may be aimed at saving money and adapting to the changing security needs as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

"We are trying to do the analysis and engage in the discussion to say at some point the downturn in operations and the upsurge in capabilities has got to meet," he said.

The AP noted that the Pentagon's spending on unmanned aircrafts went up from $284 million in 2000 to $4 billion in 2012.

The Obama administration's drone program was back in the spotlight last week as President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the CIA Director post, John Brennan, faced a confirmation hearing in the Senate.

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Brennan, Obama's former chief counterterrorism adviser, has been a vocal advocate for using drones in targeted killings of terrorists.

"I'm a big advocate of drones," former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday. While he conceded that innocent people were killed by drones, he said, "the numbers, I believe are extremely small."

"You do have the ability to limit that collateral damage more than with any other weapons system that you have," he said, according to CNN.

Appearing on ABC News' "This Week," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) both said there needed to be more congressional oversight of the administration's drone program.

Stephanie Cutter, a deputy campaign manager for Obama 2012, said, "Mr. Brennan, the president, the administration has said [sic] that they want transparency, accountability, and a process to ensure that… everybody’s aware of what we’re doing going forward."

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