DHS gained new powers under a 2018 law to counter threats from drones — formally, “unmanned aircraft systems” — but it still has only “limited capabilities” to use those powers and is “vulnerable to increased security risks and emerging threats” for purposes including protecting federal buildings, an IG report has said.
The report noted that drones can be used for illicit purposes including transporting weaponized payloads, surveillance, cybercrimes, disrupting communications and more.
The 2018 Preventing Emerging Threats Act explicitly gave DHS authority to counter such threats. Previously the Secret Service and the Coast Guard had such authority but other DHS components including the Federal Protective Service, which provides security for many federal buildings, didn’t. That law among other things allows the department to disrupt the control of potentially threatening drones, seize them or “use reasonable force” to disable or destroy them.
However, it said that DHS has not expanded its capabilities to the extent it could have for reasons including failure to request funding for the needed subject matter experts and failure to develop “a realistic work plan” and issue complete department-wide guidance. For example, it said, the guidance does not address “key processes and procedures related to covered facilities, coordination, privacy, external support, reporting, and key definitions.”
It said that while DHS management did not agree that it lacks a uniform approach across components, it concurred with recommendations addressing planning and workforce needs.
Report Warns of Drone Threat to Federal Facilities (April 2019)