Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Review - S 4687 Introduced – DHS-DOJ Counter UAS Authority

Last month, Sen Peters (D,MI) introduced S 4687, the Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act of 2022. The bill would replace 6 USC 124n, Protection of Certain Facilities and Assets from Unmanned Aircraft, with a new version that extends and expands the authority given to DHS and DOJ to conduct limited counter UAS operations. No funding authorization is provided in the bill.

Moving Forward

Peters is the Chair, and Sen Portman (R,OH) (one of five cosponsors) is the Rankin Member, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. This certainly means that there should be sufficient influence to see this bill considered in Committee. While industry would be expected to support the expansion of the authorized counter-UAS operations, there may still be some opposition to this bill from Senators that have concerns about weakening the general protection of aircraft in the national airspace. I would expect that those concerns would be worked out before the bill is considered in Committee.

The current authority for DHS and DOJ counter-drone operations expires on October 5th, 2022. I do not expect that this bill will make it to the President’s desk by that date. In fact, I expect that this bill will be rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act or the year-end spending bill. There may be a short-term extension of the authority in the meantime.


The provisions in this bill about authorizing counter-UAS operations at private sector facilities is rather broad and vague. The one key restriction that should be noticed, however, is that actions can only be undertaken at facilities designated by the Secretary of DHS or the Attorney General. As an expansion of existing authority, I think that there should be an additional limitation, it should only apply to facilities which are regulated for physical security by a federal agency. This would allow closer supervision of counter-drone operations by federal authorities.

We could implement this restriction by changing the wording of §1624n(a)(5)(C)(iii)(IV) to read:

“(IV) the provision of security or protection support to critical infrastructure owners or operators upon the request of the owner or operator, for static critical infrastructure facilities and assets for which federal regulations exist to oversee the physical security of the facility; requests to the Secretary or Attorney General for such activities would be made through the oversight agency;”

For more details about the provisions of this bill, see my article at CFSN Detailed Analysis - - subscription required.

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