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GAO: U.S. Air Force Must Improve Assessment of Retention Efforts for Drone Operators

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending the U.S. Air Force to establish metrics to properly assess its efforts to hire and retain personnel that handle the operations of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

GAO said in a report released Thursday that the Air Force is yet to achieve its 2024 staffing goals for sensor operators and pilots, as well as its implementation of a combat-to-dwell policy to ensure that RPA units’ time is spent equally on combat and noncombat activities.

The watchdog also said that the Air Force doesn’t have enough historical data to predict retention trends for RPA personnel despite providing financial incentives. 

“Without updated information to inform the number of required instructors, the Air Force does not know the correct number of instructor positions necessary to train RPA aircrews to be ready to complete their mission,” the report states.

“Without a metric (or set of metrics), it is unclear whether any adjustments are needed to meet its implementation timeframes.”

The service branch has recorded fewer RPA staff than authorized since fiscal 2016, according to the report.