Officials Confused by Pentagon’s New Drone Program

( – A wave of complaints from tech officials is drawing undesirable attention to the Pentagon’s new Replicator drone program. While the DoD claims the initiative will help boost America’s defenses while saving money, detractors are calling it poorly organized and lacking in sufficient funding.

The two-year program’s stated purpose is to develop an army of unmanned aerial vehicles at a rate far more affordable than standard acquisition channels. This increase in production would help the US counter the growing threat posed by China’s advanced weapons arsenal in a faster and more cost-effective manner.

In September, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks confirmed that the Pentagon did not intend to seek additional funding for the Replicator initiative before the end of the fiscal year 2024. The program would instead rely on repurposing “existing funding, existing programming lines, and existing authorities” to accelerate large-scale production and delivery.

This unique approach was intended to allow Replicator to commence work quickly within the department’s current budget. But officials and tech industry leaders are growing increasingly concerned over whether that’s panning out, mostly because of its opaque administration.

According to POLITICO, Hicks met with a handful of tech leaders and DoD officials to discuss the program on December 18. The news outlet spoke with three individuals who were present at that meeting, and each one shared a unique perspective.

One tech executive, who chose to remain anonymous, called the Replicator “disorganized and confusing.” That individual expressed concern over the fact that the Pentagon chose not to associate the program with any specific funding, worrying that it might undermine efforts.

Another unnamed executive expressed concern over the fact that the Pentagon was looking for outside help with production. They claimed the DoD was actively encouraging companies to expand their manufacturing lines, promising to buy drones, but had yet to actually hand over any orders. That poses an increased risk for investors.

Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) also spoke out about the program during a recent interview. He expressed concern over whether the Pentagon might reallocate resources from the production of their critical munition lines, such as Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles. Gallagher believes the Replicator program needs an influx of at least $1 billion to succeed.

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