President Biden signed an almost $1.7 trillion government spending package after the bill cleared the House and the Senate last week. Included in the bill, which funds the U.S. government for the rest of the fiscal year, is the extension of Counter-UAS authorities for the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) until September 30, 2023. There were no provisions in the bill to expand efforts to address UAS threats as recommended earlier in the year by the administration.

The authorities for DHS and DOJ expired on October 5, 2022. The authorities were extended temporarily with continuing resolutions until the signature on this bill. According to Section 547 of the bill signed by President Biden, “Section 210G(i) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 124n(i)) shall be applied by substituting ‘September 30, 2023’ for “the date that is 4 years after the date of enactment of this section.” The previous legislation was enacted on October 6, 2018.

Both DOJ and DHS will continue to receive statutory relief from provisions of Title 18 and 49, as outlined in The Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, which was codified as 6 U.S. Code Section 124n.

Expansion of C-UAS authorities on hold

The Biden Administration has proposed expanding Counter-UAS authorities, with the support of both DHS and DOJ, through its Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan. The plan provided key recommendations to increase national security for action that included:

  • Reauthorizing and expanding existing Counter-UAS authorities for DOJ, DHS, Department of Defense, and Department of State. The plan also calls for expanding authorities to the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in limited situations.
  • Expand UAS detection authorities for state, local, territorial, and Tribal (SLTT) law enforcement agencies and critical infrastructure.
  • Create a Federally sponsored pilot program for selected SLTT law enforcement agencies to perform UAS mitigation activities.
  • Permit critical infrastructure owners and operators to purchase authorized equipment for use by authorized entities.
  • Establish a list of U.S. Government-authorized detection equipment.
  • Establish a National Counter-UAS Training Center to increase training accessibility and promote interagency cross-training and collaboration.
Aerial view of Fenway Park in Boston, Massachussetts.
The extension of Counter-UAS authorities for DHS and DOJ will allow for the protection of people, facilities, or assets until September 30, 2023 (Image Credit: Adobe Stock rabbit75_fot)

Multiple C-UAS bills introduced in 2022

Multiple bills were introduced regarding Counter-UAS during the 117th United States Congress- H.R. 8949: Counter-UAS Authority Extension and Transparency Enhancement Act of 2022 and S. 4687: The Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act of 2022.

The 118th Congress will begin on January 3, 2023. This legislative group has the task of reauthorization and expansion of Counter-UAS authorities before the new expiration date.