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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

Senate bill would prohibit buying drones from countries deemed national security threats

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Legislation that would prohibit the U.S. government from procuring drones manufactured by covered foreign entities identified as national security threats was introduced in the U.S. Senate this week.

The American Security Drone Act of 2019 was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

“American taxpayer dollars should not go to state-directed or state-owned companies used by China to undermine U.S. and foreign competition, especially in critical industries that are vital to U.S. national security,” Rubio said. “Chinese companies routinely steal and provide information to Beijing’s military and intelligence apparatus, and DHS recently warned of the threat posed by Chinese-manufactured unmanned aerial systems and components. The American Drone Security Act seeks to protect U.S. national security and ensure taxpayer funds are not being used to buy drones from companies backed by the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries.”

It would specifically prohibit the use of federal funds awarded through contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements to state or local governments from being used to purchase commercial off-the-shelf drones or small unmanned aircraft systems manufactured or assembled in a country identified as a national security threat.

“Our taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to support Chinese-developed technologies that undercut American companies and put our national security at risk,” Murphy said. “We know that China and other adversaries have used drones to spy and collect sensitive data in the past, and I’ve heard directly from companies in Connecticut that are concerned about this issue. Instead of rewarding bad actors like China, we should be investing in the development of a U.S.-based supply chain that creates jobs and protects our national security.”

The bill would also require the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report to Congress detailing the amount of commercial off-the-shelf drones and small unmanned aircraft systems procured by Federal departments and agencies from countries identified as national security threats.

“Like it or not, drones are our future. Without Congressional action, adversaries like China and Iran will use drone technology as tiny Trojan Horses to spy on our government, our critical infrastructure – even our hospitals and homes,” Blumenthal said. “This bill will ensure that we don’t send China and others a gold-plated, flying invitation to steal our intellectual property, undermine our domestic technology, and spy on our communities.”