Inter-agency rivalry between the Air Force and Army led to massive cost overruns in the Predator drone program according to a 2010 Pentagon report that was recently released to the public. Under direction to combine their Predator programs, the Army and Air Force were unable to agree on a drone that possessed the same features, leading to unnecessary costs totaling $500 million, according to the report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG). Yet such quarrels between government agencies are nothing new, the report merely serves as an illustration of such phenomena.
According to the IG report, in 2008, the Air Force was reprimanded for withholding Predators from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At the same time the Army was purchasing its own Predators in what was seen by the Air Force as encroachment on their turf, professing that the Army did not know the correct ways to use the drones.
The two agencies were ordered in May 2008 to combine their drone programs in order to save money, but the Air Force responded instead by totally ending their Predator purchases in favor of the larger Reaper drone.
The IG audit in the end failed to unify the programs, when in 2011 the Pentagon merely changed its recommendations, stating that the two programs did not need to be combined. The assertion of $500 million wasted may never be proven, but defense spending, like any government program, will always contend with the issue of cost overruns.
As a counterexample to the argument to unify the Predator programs is the infamous F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 program is designed to fill roles in the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force and has been the subject of years of schedule and cost overruns, which at times threatened to cause the end of the program altogether. Against that backdrop, the IG report itself may have been yet another addition to government waste, as the risks of forcing large branches of the military to agree is well known to produce inferior and overpriced equipment.