Friday, April 17, 2015

HR 1646 Introduced – Drone Security Research

Last month Rep. Watson Coleman (D,NJ) introduced HR 1646, the Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act. The bill would require DHS to conduct an assessment of the risk of drone attacks and how to mitigate those attacks. In her press release about the bill and in comments on the floor of the House, Ms Watson Coleman has stated that the bill arose out of concerns that she heard in testimony before the  Management and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee.

This is a short bill with very simple requirements. First the DHS Secretary is required to conduct research into “how commercially available small and medium sized unmanned aerial systems could be used to perpetuate an attack” {§2(a)}. There is no funding for the study, no guidance on how it is to be conducted and there is no definition of the key terms ‘small’ and ‘medium sized unmanned aerial systems’.

Once the study is completed the Secretary is required to coordinate with DOD, DOT and DOE to “develop Federal policies, guidance, and protocols to prevent such an attack or mitigate the effects of such an attack” {§2(a)}. Additionally, the Secretary is required to disseminate the information to “State, local, and tribal law enforcement officials regarding how such officials may bolster preparedness for and responses to attacks perpetrated by commercially available small and medium sized unmanned aerial systems” {§2(b)}. There is no mention of sharing the information with critical infrastructure owners who might be considered to be the targets of most of the homeland security related attacks.

And finally, of course, is the standard requirement to report on the security assessment to Congress.

Since this bill does not require anyone to really do anything besides conduct a study, and no funds are included in the bill this bill would almost certainly face no organized opposition if it made it to the floor. Since Rep. Watson Coleman is the ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee looking at the bill, there is a very good chance that this bill could get considered in committee and successfully move to the floor of the House. 

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