Drones are expensive. Aircraft like General Atomics's MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper cost millions of dollars piece, while the cost of maintaining the fleet stretches into the high tens of billions dollars over their lifespans. The Pentagon's internal watchdog is aware of this, and recently lambasted the Air Force for not justifying the purchase of 46 Reapers—potentially wasting $8.8 billion of taxpayers' money.

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That's a lot of taxpayer dollars! In fact, that's well over half of what the government spends on veterans education benefits. How could the Air Force be so reckless? Well, according to the inspector general, the main problem with the purchases is the simple fact that the Air Force can't justify it. Or rather, the branch's air combat command didn't even try. In inspector general speak, they "did not conduct and maintain consistent, complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary MQ-9 procurement quantity." The commanders just spent the taxpayer dollars.

The Air Force, perhaps obviously, takes a different view of the matter. "The air combat command's director of plans said the Pentagon study significantly overstated the potential waste costs, pegging it at $593.4m for 46 Reapers instead of nearly $9bn, and underestimated the stress on the air force to provide sufficient drones for commanders," reports The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman who obtained a copy of the inspector general's original report. The Air Force also claims that it's buying 346 drones instead of the 401 that the inspector general says it's buying.

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Well, whatever. We could let the military bureaucrats bark back and forth about the specifics for years, but there's a bit of a trend that backs up the inspector general's claims. Remember the Pentagon's trillion dollar plane that keeps getting grounded, won't be able to shoot its gun for years, and probably isn't even that great in the first place? (It's called the F-35.) With past examples of wasteful spending in the military, it's easy to believe that the Air Force might've screwed up to the tune of nearly $9 billion. Meanwhile, nobody even wants to fly the damn things. At least the Air Force isn't just melting down the drones like the Pentagon had to do with $1 billion worth of bullets recently. At least there's that. [The Guardian]

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