Senate approves Blackburn’s amendment to restrict funds for drones from adversaries

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a bipartisan amendment led by U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to a larger appropriations bill that would prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from operating or providing federal funds for drones produced in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. 

“My amendment will help curb the importation of drones produced by our adversaries, keeping our nation safer and encouraging manufacturing here at home,” Sen. Blackburn said. 

The amendment, which she introduced alongside U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), is now included in the appropriations minibus package to fund military construction and veterans affairs; agriculture; transportation, housing and urban development; and related agencies, according to staff.

“Taxpayer dollars should never fund drones manufactured in regions that are hostile toward our nation, including Communist China,” said Sen. Blackburn. “As the world rapidly becomes more technologically advanced, it’s vital that we protect critical U.S. sectors from the increasingly aggressive New Axis of Evil and their partners.”

The senators’ amendment is based on their bipartisan Stemming The Operation of Pernicious and Illicit Drones Act, or STOP Illicit Drones Act, S. 1830, which Sens. Blackburn and Warner introduced in June to prohibit the FAA from awarding any federal assistance to entities from certain foreign countries for projects related to unmanned aircraft systems, according to the congressional record.

“Drones have tremendous potential to transform our society,” said Sen. Warner. “But we have a responsibility to ensure that as the adoption of this technology continues to grow, we are not advancing the goals of our adversaries.”

Specifically, the newly approved amendment would withhold funding included in the appropriations package for the FAA that could be used to benefit drone companies located in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba; owned or subject to the influence or control of any of these governments; or included in the Consolidated Screening List, which the United States government uses to maintain restrictions on certain exports, reexports, or transfers of items, according to a summary provided by the lawmakers.