The Senate Counter-UAS Bill, also known as S.1631: Safeguarding the Homeland from Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act of 2023, continues to add bipartisan cosponsors. With the addition of Sen. Marsha Blackburn [R-TN], Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX], and Sen. Mark Warner [D-VA], the bill now has 14 cosponsors- 7 Republicans, 6 Democrats, and 1 Independent.

The bill would reauthorize existing authorities for both the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS), as well as expand the capabilities of state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) law enforcement as well as the owners and operators of critical infrastructure to use radio frequency (RF) detection equipment that would otherwise violate certain provisions of federal law.

The bill would also expand the number of agencies with the authority to mitigate drones as part of their counter-UAS mission. This bill would authorize DHS and DOJ to assess the viability of an SLTT pilot program for countering drones posing credible threats to covered facilities or assets.

The pilot program allows up to 12 SLTT agencies per year for a five-year period, with direct oversight by either DOJ or DHS. These agencies must regularly report in writing to the relevant Congressional committees on mitigation authorities granted, including details of privacy or civil liberties complaints known to DHS or DOJ. Equipment authorization is limited to that approved by DHS and DOJ in coordination with the FCC, NTIA, and DOT (acting through the FAA).

Training requirements for the pilot program will be established from criteria established by DHS and DOJ, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, and the Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Attorney General, acting through the Director of the FBI, may provide training to SLTT to mitigate a credible threat that a UAS poses to the safety or security of a covered facility or asset and establish or designate one or more facilities or training centers.

Last month, the “Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024” (H.R. 6363) received approval from both the House and Senate and was signed by President Biden. The legislation extended the C-UAS Authority for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until February 3, 2024, surpassing the previous expiration date of November 18, 2023. These authorities, originally set to expire in October 2022, have undergone multiple extensions and were established under The Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, as outlined in 6 U.S. Code Section 124n(i).

For more information on the history of law enforcement counter-UAS in the United States, please visit- A Short History of Law Enforcement C-UAS in the U.S.