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The US Air Force wants to hire thousands of new people for its drone program

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In a proposed plan released this week, the US Air Force says it wants to dramatically increase the scope of its drone program, the Los Angeles Times reports.

$3 billion proposal

If the $3 billion plan is approved by Congress, it would add 3,500 new pilots and other personnel, as well as add 75 "Reaper" drones to its forces, according to the Times. Flying squadrons would also be increased from eight to as many as 17. To house those operations, the Air Force is reportedly planning to move pilots to bases across the US, with about 400 to 500 pilots and crew at each base selected. (Currently, most operations are conducted from one site in Nevada, where more than 3,000 military personnel and civilians work.)

The Air Force has cast the plan as a way of lightening the burden for existing pilots, many of whom work long hours under extreme stress. A 2013 Defense Department study found that drone pilots were as susceptible to anxiety, depression, and stress as their traditional pilot counterparts.

Last month, four former US Air Force drone pilots, writing a widely circulated open letter, called the US drone program "one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."