For nearly a decade now, 10 Predator B drones have been zipping around US borders at $US12,000 an hour under the pretence of securing the country's borders. Except that, according to a scathing report released earlier today by Homeland Security, not only do these drones cost five times as much as advertised, but they're doing an all around shitty job, to boot.
Part of the problem, though, is the fact that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) simply doesn't have the manpower necessary to actually put all the drones to use. While each drone was supposed to be on patrol around 16 hours a day, it actually ended up averaging out to less than a quarter of that. The Washington Post cites lack of personnel, spare parts, and bad weather as part of the reason the drones stayed grounded for so long.
Either way, the drones are wildly ineffective for how much money Americans are spending on them. In Arizona, less than two precent of all border-crossing apprehensions could be attributed to the drones. In Texas, that number is less than one per cent. And all the while, these things are bleeding money. According to the report:
We estimate that, in fiscal year 2013, it cost at least $US62.5 million to operate the program, or about $US12,255 per [flight] hour. We estimate that, in fiscal year 2013, it cost at least $US62.5 million to operate the program, or about $US12,255 per [flight] hour.
These new revelations are coming out amidst a recent push for a $US443 million plan to buy even more of the "dubious achievers", as the report penned by Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth refers to them. But now that plan, which would more than double the total number of drones to an obscene 24, may very well end up shelved. According to the report:
In addition, Congress and the public may be unaware of all the resources committed to the program. As a result, CBP has invested significant funds in a program that has not achieved the expected results, and it cannot demonstrate how much the program has improved border security. The $US443 million CBP plans to spend on program expansion could be put to better use by investing in alternatives.
What's more, despite the fact that DHS had supposedly claimed to have "expanded unmanned aircraft system coverage to the entire Southwest Border", the drones are actually only patrolling about 160km of the Arizona border and 113km of the Texas border.
You can (and should) read the report in full down below -- it's bad. Hopefully this will pave the way for at least starting a discussion about putting that money into something more worthwhile. Of course, with the way Congress works these days, that's wishful thinking. But hey, at least someone's getting some use out of them. [Free Beacon]
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