Federal Manager's Daily Report

Report: Increasing availability and capabilities of drones raises potential for illicit use, including surveillance, disruption, and weaponization.

In a report whose warnings apply to other facilities of other agencies as well, the IG of the Energy Department has said that department needs to do more to address potential security threats to its facilities from drones.

The report notes that the devices—technically called unmanned aerial systems—are increasingly available and relatively affordable and that some have features such as high definition cameras, auto pilot navigation, and the ability to carry and remotely release payloads. “The increasing availability and improved capabilities of small UAS enhances the potential for use in illicit operations, including surveillance, disruption, and weaponization,” it says, adding that the DoD, DHS and FBI “have expressed concern that terrorists will be using UAS against United States assets in the near future.”

It said that Energy has the same legal authority as DoD under a 2017 defense budget law to take counter-measures including seizing control of, confiscating, or disabling or destroying such devices. One Energy component, the National Nuclear Security Administration “has been proactive in establishing limited internal controls that include observing and reporting UAS, as well as using deadly force if hostile intent is determined” and at least one of its laboratories has a similar policy in place.

However, department-wide, Energy “has not made a threat determination on UAS utilizing the most current information pertaining to UAS capabilities; therefore, the department may not have effective controls in place to address such encounters.”

It said that management agreed with its recommendation that it determine the “criticality of UAS threats and ensure that the department uses the appropriate process to update security controls based on the most recent information available concerning UAS capabilities.” However, that could take from a number of months to several years, depending on which approach is taken, it added.