Here’s the story of a drone with a mind of its own. A Navy drone sent out on a test flight from Maryland earlier this month lost its control link, and wandered into restricted airspace over Washington – 23 miles off course. The New York Times reports, the Fire Scout – which looks like a small windowless helicopter – was flying at about 2,000 feet. The Navy says the drone got within 40 miles of Washington before operators were able to re-establish communication and guide it back to its base in southern Maryland. And, though the Navy isn’t saying whether anybody on the ground, or in the control room, were surprised or panicked by the incident, they did say it resulted in the grounding of all six of the Navy’s Fire Scouts, as well as an inquiry into what went wrong. The Navy is calling the problem a “software issue.” The vehicles have already proved their usefulness. In April, a Fire Scout was part of a drug arrest in the waters off of Central America. It relayed video of a suspicious fishing vessel to the Coast Guard and law enforcement, who moved in and seized 60 kilos of cocaine.
The Obama administration appears to have selected a candidate to be the secretary of defense for intelligence. Michael Vickers is currently the top civilian overseer of special operations forces, but Politico’s Morning Defense reports that he is widely expected to be named to the DOD intel post. Vickers would replace James Clapper, who was tapped at the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence. Vickers is currently the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities. Politico notes that Vickers is best known outside the Pentagon for his portrayal in the book — and later the movie — “Charlie Wilson’s War” as a national security wunderkind. Sources tell POLITICO that Vickers would be Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ favorite to replace Clapper. Meantime, Vickers is proposing a new “Irregular Warfare Office” – or, I-W-O for short. The focus of the new office would be to “identify, accelerate and monitor the implementation of the Department’s top priority Irregular Warfare initiatives.” That’s according to a memo Vickers wrote in May obtained by POLITICO. But, don’t call it an “I-W Czar.” Vickers says in the memo, he envisions the office to serve as a full-time catalyst for the continued rebalancing of Dod’s capabilities and investments toward irregular warfare.