The U.S. needs to either extend current authorities or work on legislative proposals quickly as time is running out, say Thomas Warrick and Paul Rosenzweig, two senior officials with decades of expertise in homeland security and counterterrorism. They also argue that we need a Drone Czar to advance the industry and protect the public.
The Legal authority of the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) to safeguard the public from drone threats expire on December 9.
According to Warrick and Rosenzweig, Congress and the Administration must immediately agree on one of many competing legislative solutions or extend existing authorities.
“Failure to act in the coming days would put the country at grave risk of a terrorist attack,” they say in an opinion piece written for The Hill.
They argue that the government's approach to drone regulation is a jumbled mix of overlapping responsibilities and capabilities.
- The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of the country's airspace.
- The Department of Homeland Security has the ability to limit drone flying over sensitive sites.
- The FBI investigates and the Department of Justice prosecutes breaches of federal law.
- The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains combat and reconnaissance drones across the world, but it is equally concerned about camera drones flying near military locations.
According to Warrick and Rosenzweig, Congress must now select between three possible legislative solutions to handle the expired authority.
- The administration's strategy, published in April, is known as the “Domestic Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems National Action Plan,” and it asks Congress to provide DHS, DOJ, DOD, other departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments, expanded authorities.
- In August, a bipartisan group of Senators headed by Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) submitted legislation that included most, but not all, of the administration's desired authority.
- Meanwhile, a significantly smaller rival measure was submitted with bipartisan backing in the House. It reflected bipartisan concerns about privacy, stayed closer to current legislation, and was significantly more careful about granting power to control and bring down rogue drones.
With time running out, Congress and the administration must prioritize ensuring that current, fundamental authorities do not lapse, even if that means rolling over existing laws.
Drone Czar needed
The two also think that the US government should hire a well-known “Drone Czar” to help promote the Drone Industry and help people see the benefits of drones while also making sure that the country and its people are safe from rogue and dangerous drones.
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