A top US Army general says it's not the right time to build a new drone branch

  • Army Futures Command Gen. James Rainey said it's too soon to establish a drone branch.

  • The House Armed Services Committee pushed forward the idea of creating a drone corps last month.

  • Army officials argue drone technology needs time to develop within formations.

US Army Gen. James Rainey, who serves as the commanding general of Army Futures Command, said it's too soon for the service to establish a new drone branch, reiterating a point made by other Army leaders.

"The bigger thing is getting UAVs into our formation at echelon right now so we can train," Rainey said in a conversation last week with Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

As is, the Army already has a number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle specialists. "I don't know that it's going to warrant its own branch," the general said.

"Certainly, I'd say it's too soon for that," he added.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee put forward the creation of a drone corps as a branch of the Army in proposed language in the 2025 defense authorization bill last month.

Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia said in March that a drone branch would allow for "these systems' unique capabilities to grow beyond their role primarily as enablers to the current combat arms branches."

The moves within the House committee come as drones play a defining role in Ukraine, the largest land war in Europe since World War II. These systems have been used for strikes, reconnaissance, targeting, and more on a scale previously unseen, and Ukraine established a drone branch earlier this year.

The US military is adopting new capabilities and technologies to counter this threat, but it's a work in progress. That said, top Army officials don't feel a drone branch is needed right now.

Army Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo previously pushed back on the proposal to establish a drone corps. He believes drone technology still needs time to develop and integrate with the Army.

"My view is that creating a corps or other institutional kind of structure to get after it, in some ways, could take away some focus from some of the things that we're actually doing," he said during an event in May. "It's important, in my view, to get after giving units these … UAS capabilities to let them experiment."

And Army Chief of Staff Randy George told the Senate Appropriations Committee that drones are "integrated into our formation, not some separate piece." He added that "we need that kind of flexibility."

"I don't think it would be helpful to have a separate drone branch," he said.

Speaking at the CSIS event last week, Rainey explained that it is important to ensure UAVs have the proper capabilities before committing to acquisition.

"We [need to] have good requirements and good acquisition approaches for UAVs at echelon," Rainey said. "We need to stop buying a thing and buy a capability."

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