Government watchdog: Navy should evaluate using civilians to operate certain unmanned systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Government Accountability Office is out with a report detailing changes it says should be made to the operations of the Navy and Marine Corps to support the expanding unmanned systems portfolio.

The GAO, a nonpartisan agency known as a congressional watchdog, found that the Navy and Marine Corps are rapidly growing their portfolio of unmanned systems with military personnel as operators and they haven't evaluated alternatives.

Those alternatives, according to the GAO, could include both federal civilian employees and private sector contractors operating the systems in certain circumstances.

The Department of the Navy has at least 24 types of systems with $10 billion earmarked for development and procurement between 2018 and 2022.

The GAO says that without clarifying policies and making decisions in regards to circumstances where civilians and contractors might be able to operate unmanned systems, the services are considering all available resources.

Among the ten recommendations laid out by the GAO is updating personnel requirements for one unmanned aerial system, evaluating and updating policies and goals for future personnel requirements, and clarifying what circumstances civilians and contractors might be able to serve in operational roles.

The Department of Defense concurred with eight of the recommendations and partially concurred with the other two.

In a response to the report, Rich Robbins, Director of Total Force Manpower and Resources for the Department of the Navy wrote, "In order to maximize missions accomplishment, the Department is committed to addressing manpower and training challenges resulting from the increased demand for these capabilities."

The GAO wrote that, "until the Department of the Navy evaluates and updates such policies and clarifies related goals, the services will be hampered in developing and updating future requirements as unmanned system inventories grow and operations expand."

Read the full report here: Actions Needed to Better Position the Navy and the Marine Corps to Support Expanding Unmanned Systems Operations