Volume 57, No. 1 (March 2013)

An Insider’s Perspective on Innovation During Fiscal Austerity: The Early Evolution of the Predator Drone

By Frank Strickland


Editor’s note: The author, as a senior officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, was Director of Central Intelligence James Woolsey’s staff officer for the Predator project. Among his duties was the conduct of a detailed operational evaluation of the Predator’s initial deployment. Woolsey served as the DCI from 5 February 1993 to 10 January 1995. 

Innovations in national security capabilities need not decrease during times when security needs collide with austere budgets, and

government and industry leaders must continue promoting innovation even as budget cuts drive reductions in some capabilities.

The history of one government project, the GNAT 750 and its rapid evolution into today’s Predator UAV—America’s first operational long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or “drone”—demonstrates that fiscal austerity can be an innovator’s opportunity.


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