By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 8, 2008 - Congressional defense committees have approved a request to reprogram $1.2 billion so the Defense Department can beef up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in U.S. Central Command, DoD officials said. The reprogramming comes from fiscal 2008 funds and will buy 21 manned ISR aircraft and improve unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities in the theater, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday.
"It will assist our efforts to grow the UAV capability in platforms such as Shadow, Predator, Reaper, Raven and Hunter," Whitman said. "It will allow us to buy additional Scan Eagle detachments."
The reprogramming comes from recommendations of a task force set up at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to ensure the department was doing everything it could to deploy additional ISR capabilities to forces in combat. As operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to evolve, battlefield commanders have said the need for pervasive ISR has never been higher. About 80 percent of the U.S. military's ISR assets already are deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, most in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"All these procurements are focused on manned and unmanned ISR capabilities and the infrastructure that is necessary to process and disseminate the information you get from these," Whitman said.
The secretary also has approved task force recommendations to reprogram funds in fiscal 2009. Total cost is still being examined, DoD officials said. The capabilities needed in 2009 include sustainment of the additional 2008 procured aircraft and infrastructure, an additional 30 C-12 aircraft, and additional personnel to process, exploit and disseminate intelligence gathered.
"The effect of the task force is to help ensure we are using ISR resources effectively in support of our combat commanders and forces," said Air Force Lt. Col. Pat Ryder, a DoD spokesman. "The task force also addresses shortfalls and challenges for sustainment."