Graves: DHS stepping outside authority to permit counter-unmanned aircraft in airport space

It’s irresponsible for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to permit the operation of counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) equipment near airports, including equipment that could be capable of shooting down drones, says U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO).

“The only federal agency that fully understands the incredible complexity of this system, in its totality, is the Federal Aviation Administration” (FAA), said Reps. Graves and his Republican colleague U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) in a joint Nov. 15 statement.

“Nobody wants drones to cause disruptions at our airports, but to hastily hand over authority to shoot down drones to an agency that doesn’t have the critical knowledge or experience of how our airspace system functions is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Rep. Graves, ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Rogers, ranking member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.

In a Nov. 14 letter sent to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, the representatives took issue with a planned concept of operations developed by DHS, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation, whereby the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Air Marshal Service would operate C-UAS equipment to mitigate a persistent UAS risk in the vicinity of an airport.

“While we share the goal of ensuring that our nation’s airports are not disrupted by negligent or nefarious UAS operations, DHS does not have the authority or the experience necessary to operate C-UAS equipment in the manner proposed,” wrote Reps. Graves and Rogers. “We believe this concept of operations is wholly inconsistent with, and contrary to the legislative intent of, the limited C-UAS authority by Congress to DHS.”

The lawmakers pointed out that the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 provides limited authority to DHS to take action against drones in certain circumstances in highly secure or sensitive government-controlled areas, “up to and including its destruction, if such UAS poses a credible threat to safety or security.”

Additionally, the law requires that such authority, as well as operation of C-UAS equipment, “be conducted in close coordination” with the FAA, they wrote.

Rep. Graves and his colleague added that if the administration “believes that another federal agency needs additional authority to mitigate credible UAS threats near airports, we welcome any discussion along those lines in order to keep our National Airspace System safe and our homeland secure.”