US House panel seeks ban on federal purchases of China drones

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The top members of a U.S. House committee on China are introducing a bill that seeks to ban the U.S. government from buying Chinese drones.

Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the committee, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the ranking Democrat, are introducing the “American Security Drone Act” on Wednesday, the lawmakers said in a statement.

“This bill would prohibit the federal government from using American taxpayer dollars to purchase this equipment from countries like China,” Gallagher said. “It is imperative that Congress pass this bipartisan bill to protect U.S. interests and our national security supply chain.”

The bill would also bar local and state governments from purchasing Chinese drones using federal grants and require a federal report detailing the amount of foreign commercial off-the-shelf drones and covered unmanned aircraft systems procured by federal departments and agencies from China.

Krishnamoorthi said the bill “helps protect against any vulnerabilities posed by our government agencies’ reliance on foreign-manufactured drone technology and will encourage growth in the U.S. drone industry.”

Separately, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment proposed by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Mark Warner that would prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from operating or providing federal funds for drones produced in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba.

“Taxpayer dollars should never fund drones manufactured in regions that are hostile toward our nation,” Blackburn said.

China recently announced export controls on some drones and drone-related equipment, saying it wanted to safeguard “national security and interests.”

The Commerce Department in 2020 imposed export restrictions on China-based drone manufacturer DJI, accusing it of complicity in the oppression of China’s Uyghur minority and helping the military.

Over 50% of drones sold in the United States are made by DJI, and they are the most popular drones in use by public safety agencies, Republican lawmakers said earlier this year.

Congress in 2019 banned the Pentagon from buying or using drones and components manufactured in China.

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