Hoeven Secures Funding to Advance CBP’s UAS Operations & Develop Counter-UAS Technology in FY19

Appropriations Committee Approves DHS Funding Legislation to Strengthen Border Security

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Homeland Security, today outlined provisions he secured in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help advance Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations and DHS’s counter-UAS research and development, which will help to bolster North Dakota’s UAS operations. Hoeven also worked to ensure the legislation includes funding and provisions to strengthen national security, including funding for physical barriers and other security measures at the nation’s borders. The bill was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee this week and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

“This legislation is about providing the tools and support the men and women in the DHS and border patrol need to secure our nation, whether it’s from persons trying to enter illegally or online threats to our networks and infrastructure,” Hoeven said. “Further, this bill helps advance our efforts to make better use of our UAS assets to secure the border, including funding that allows CBP to use contractors, such as the companies at Grand Sky, to train its UAS pilots. The legislation also continues our work to support the development counter-UAS technology. That’s a critical piece of integrating unmanned aircraft safely into our airspace and protecting against potential UAS threats.”

UAS Operations & Counter-UAS Research

  • $13 million for counter-UAS technologies and instructs DHS to brief the Appropriations Committee on its funding needs in this area for the next five years.
  • $10 million for CBP to use contractors, like those at Grand Sky, to train UAS pilots to help address the pilot shortage and increase the use of its UAS fleet for border surveillance.
  • Requires CBP to report on whether using contractor-owned, contractor-operated aircraft could help further augment its border surveillance activities.
  • Includes language prioritizing security at the northern border and provides $6 million to test and evaluate methods for detecting low flying and slow aircraft that facilitate trafficking and smuggling. 

The legislation approved by the committee this week dovetails with Hoeven’s efforts to advance UAS as a solution to improve national security, especially along the northern border. Further, Hoeven is advocating for the administration to utilize Grand Forks’ UAS facilities and expertise to improve border security, develop counter-UAS technologies and address the pilot shortage, both for manned and unmanned aircraft. To this end, the senator is working with DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on a timeline for her to visit Grand Forks this summer, which would allow her to see the extensive UAS operations in the region.

Hoeven also joined Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last month to announce that North Dakota was selected as one of ten sites to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS integration pilot program. As part of this program, the North Dakota test site and the state’s UAS industry will be at the forefront of establishing the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace (NAS), providing regulatory certainty for UAS operators and ensuring privacy concerns are addressed.

In addition, Hoeven recently helped introduce the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation that would give the DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to protect important facilities from security risks posed by unmanned aircraft. At the same time, the bill directs the DHS to evaluate emerging UAS threats and to research and test technology to address these risks. This legislation has been passed by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), on which Hoeven serves, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Strengthening National Security & Border Enforcement

  • $1.6 billion for border fencing, sensor technology, fiber optics and camera systems in the Rio Grand Valley Sector in Texas.
  • $14.3 million for cybersecurity education, including the Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP).
  • Requires CBP to provide, within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, a detailed plan describing how to secure each border sector.
  • Allows CBP to hire 750 new law enforcement personnel.
  • Prohibits the reduction of operational hours at land ports of entry, unless CBP consults with local officials and demonstrates overall benefits to regional commerce.
  • Directs CBP to evaluate the costs and benefits of using proven commercial mobile spectrum management and secure communications infrastructure to address high priority areas that have inadequate radio coverage.