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American Forces Press Service

Gates Forms Task Force to Promote Intelligence, Surveillance for Warfighters

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates established a new task force last week to ensure the Defense Department is doing everything possible to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to support warfighters, he announced today.

Gates told officers at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., he created  the task force to give the ISR issue the same level emphasis that another task force he established has put on mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.

“My concern is that our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield,” the secretary said during a speech to Air War College students. “While we have doubled this capability in recent months, it is still not good enough.”

Gates expressed frustration at the pace of progress, slowed by people “stuck in old ways of doing business” who make instituting change “like pulling teeth.”

The new task force will move the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance issue to the front burner as it explores “more innovative and bold ways to help those whose lives are on the line,” he said.

Getting more ISR support to deployed forces “may require rethinking long-standing service assumptions and priorities about which missions require certified pilots and which do not,” Gates said.

“For those missions that still require manned missions, we need to think hard about whether we have the right platforms,” he said. Particularly in environments where the United States and its partners have total control of the skies, “low-cost, low-tech alternatives” may provide the basic reconnaissance and close-air support needed, he said.

Gates recalled the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles in the 1990s, when he was director of central intelligence. “The introduction of UAVs around this time meant far less risk and far more versatile means of gathering data, and other nations like Israel set about using them,” he said. “In 1992, however, the Air Force would not co-fund with CIA a vehicle without a pilot.”

As he called today for out-of-the-box thinking about how the military can operate in the most sensible, affordable way, Gates said it’s time to recognize the role unmanned aerial vehicles play in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions -- and how much more they can contribute.

“Unmanned systems cost much less and offer greater loiter time than their manned counterparts, making them ideal for many of today’s tasks,” he said.

He noted a 25-fold increase since 2001, with 5,000 now in the military inventory. “But in my view, we can do -- and we should do -- more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt.”

Brad Berkson, director of program, analysis and evaluation, will chair the new task force and provide regular updates to Gates beginning early next month, said Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.

Other task force members include representatives of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, the Joint Staff, the military services, the comptroller, and other Defense Department components.

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