Tuesday the House of Representatives passed a Democratic-sponsored bipartisan bill to address the security of unmanned aerial vehicles operating in the national air space — the Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act (H. 1646) and the Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act (HR 2390).
The Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act, sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee, is the first bill to tackle the security challenges posed by drones in US airspace.
HR 1646 would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to research how commercially available small and medium sized unmanned aircraft, excluding aircraft over 1,300 pounds, could be used to perpetuate an attack; and develop policies, guidance and protocols to prevent or mitigate the risks of such an attack.
It also would authorize DHS to provide the Departments of Defense, Transportation and Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission advice regarding how to best prevent and mitigate the risk of such an attack.
“I am pleased that the House has passed this criticaland timely piece of legislation,” Coleman said, saying she “introduced this bill with the understanding that drone technology holds great promise that has yet to be fully realized. Truly harnessing these devices’ potential requires us to mitigate the risks associated with them. The Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act does that – enhancing national security and clarifying the framework for drone manufacturers and enthusiasts alike. The end result will be policies that allow us to build and use drones in a lawful and safe manner.”
Meanwhile, the Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act, sponsored by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, would require the Comptroller General to initiate a study to assess DHS’s university-based centers (Centers of Excellence) and recommend appropriate improvements to Congress.
Thompson’s bill would require the Comptroller General of the United States to initiate a study to assess the university-based centers for homeland security program authorized by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and provide recommendations to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate for appropriate improvements.
It also would require:
- A review DHS’s efforts to identify key areas of study needed to support the homeland security mission and criteria that DHS utilized to determine those key areas for which it should maintain, establish, or eliminate university-based centers;
- Review the method by which university-based centers, federally funded research and development centers, and Department of Energy national laboratories receive tasking from DHS;
- Review and weight selection criteria for designating university-based centers;
- Examine best practices from other agencies’ efforts to organize and use university-based research to support their missions;
- Review DHS’s criteria and metrics to measure demonstrable progress achieved by university-based centers in fulfilling DHS taskings and mechanisms for delivering and disseminating the research results of designated university-based centers within DHS and to other agencies;
- Examine means by which academic institutions that are not designated or associated with the designated university-based centers can optimally contribute to the research mission of the Directorate of Science and Technology of DHS; and
- Assess the interrelationship between the different university-based centers and the degree to which outreach and collaboration among a diverse array of academic institutions is encouraged by DHS.
Thompson’ legislation would also require the annual report from DHS on such centers to describe: research that has been tasked and completed by each center designated during the preceding year; funding provided by DHS for each such center for that year, and plans for utilization of such centers in the forthcoming year.
“The legislation passed today shows dynamic, bipartisan effort to help improve the security of the nation,” Thompson said in a statement. “Drones are an emerging security concern – in the wrong hands, an off-the-shelf small or medium-sized drone can jam communications, take surveillance imagery, and could even be weaponized.