The acting deputy of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday told a Senate panel that Congress needs to provide funding for the department to acquire counter unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS) for the protection of critical infrastructures and U.S. borders.
DHS needs “appropriations to purchase equipment” to bring down drones that pose a threat, Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting deputy of the department, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during his opening remarks at a hearing to discuss threats to the homeland.
“This problem is well studied,” he said. “The dander is understood and we are frankly behind the curve in being equipped to address it. I would note especially in my view at airports, the borders and sensitive sites.”
Congress in 2018 gave DHS authorities to test counter-drone technologies and in some applications to be able to mitigate threats from small UAS. So far, Congress has only provided the department funding to test and evaluate counter-drone systems.
Cuccinelli also said that DHS needs additional legislative “authority to address the drone threat in an appropriate manner,” although he didn’t offer additional detail on what additional authorities are needed.
Within DHS, the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service and the Secret Service have authorities to detect, track and mitigate threats from drones. The Transportation Security Administration is planning to set up a testbed with at least one U.S. airport to evaluate technology to detect, track and identify small drones, but the agency doesn’t have mitigation authority.
Owners and operators of airports and other critical infrastructures have tested equipment on their own for use in detecting, tracking and identifying potential drone threats but they don’t have authority to bring a drone down. These critical infrastructures have also been limited in their use of the detection and tracking technologies out of concerns that they could impact flight operations.