RPA Executive Agency

Now is not the time to revisit the debate over which service should have executive agency over remotely piloted aircraft, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Monday. The Army and Navy are stepping up to provide 30 additional combat air patrols to allow USAF to catch up its training and manning to maintain 60 CAPS, but executive agency would be an unnecessarily “divisive” debate just now, maintained Welsh at a Monday Pentagon press conference. When the executive agency discussion, which former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called a “turf battle,” was last conducted in 2008, it was about whether a single service should have buying and organizing authority over the many RPAs at the medium- and high-altitude regimes. USAF argued it should be in charge. “It was contentious … and not helpful,” Welsh asserted. “Whether it was an important subject at the time or not, it was not a helpful debate,” he said, adding, “I don’t think it would be much different right now than it was then and for that reason, I don’t think it’s necessary.” Welsh also said the services “have worked very closely together” to create a common architecture for analyzing RPA-gathered intelligence and operating the capability “in a joint way on a battlefield. We’ve been doing it remarkably well for the last 12 years or so and I think we made some real progress.”