Senate appropriators criticize Air Force's FY-20 procurement profile for MQ-9s

By Sara Sirota / September 16, 2019 at 9:31 AM

The Senate Appropriations Committee is “dismayed” with the Air Force’s fiscal year 2020 acquisition plan for MQ-9 Reapers, recommending additional funding so the service can buy four more aircraft than proposed.

In its FY-20 budget request, the service asked for $361 million to purchase 12 Reapers, ground control stations, training equipment and other support items -- with an average aircraft unit cost of $20 million.

This price tag is 25% higher than in FY-19, when the Air Force estimated a $16 million price per aircraft for 24 Reapers in total.

In justification documents submitted to Congress with its FY-20 budget request, the Air Force acknowledged the higher unit cost and said 12 aircraft are the minimum sustaining rate for MQ-9s.

But Senate appropriators say this is still lower than the optimized production rate of 16 aircraft, resulting in a 20% penalty, according to a report accompanying their FY-20 defense spending bill, which passed through the committee last week.

The lawmakers scrutinize the Air Force’s future years defense program further, saying the service “is not appropriately budgeting for attrition reserve requirements” and recommending an additional $27 million on top of the proposed $361 million for FY-20.

Their report calls for the Air Force to use this sum, along with funds the service saves on the 12 budgeted aircraft by reaching the optimized rate, to purchase the four extra aircraft.