WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday announced a new task force charged with more quickly fielding intelligence and surveillance equipment into combat zones, specifically citing the need for more unmanned aircraft.

The unit is similar to the MRAP Task Force set up last May. In a speech before students at the Air University at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama, Gates said the new group is needed to help officials speed up Pentagon bureaucracy.

“My concern is that our services are not moving aggressively in wartime to bring resources needed now on the battlefield,” Gates said. “I’ve been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the theater.

“Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business it’s been like pulling teeth. While we’ve doubled this capability in recent months, it is still not good enough.”

The task force will be chaired by Bradley M. Berkson, director for program analysis and evaluation, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman on Monday.

“He’ll be providing regular updates to the secretary,” Whitman said. “His task force will include members from the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Joint Staff, military services, comptroller and then other DOD components as appropriately needed.”

The group will report back to the secretary by early next month ways to field more pilotless planes and other critical intelligence assets, he said, but could not provide information on its budget or any fielding goals for unmanned aircraft.

Gates told the students he expects the group to tackle “difficult questions with difficult answers,” including many issues of whether piloted aircraft are preferable to unmanned drones in many combat zones.

“We must think hard about the right platforms,” he said. “For example, low-cost and low-impact alternatives exist to do basic reconnaissance and close-air support in an environment where we have total control of the skies.”

Gates called the unmanned drones more versatile and “far less risky” than conventional aircraft, and said Air Force officials need to be discussing how to perform future missions “in the most affordable and sensible way.”

He noted that the number of the unmanned machines in the military’s arsenal totals more than 5,000 — 25 times the number in 2000.

“But in my view we can do and should do more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt,” he said.

Reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this story.

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