The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced 14 bills out of its business meeting today, including legislation to protect against drone threats and to establish a framework for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will improve data sharing across DHS’s numerous component agencies.

The Committee, led by Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., passed S.2836, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, and S.2397, the Department of Homeland Security Data Framework Act of 2018, by voice vote.

The Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018, which is sponsored by Sen. Johnson, is intended to assist DHS in preventing emerging threats from unmanned aircraft and vehicles. The legislation would authorize the DHS Secretary and Attorney General to take action to protect certain covered facilities and assets from dangers posed by unmanned aircraft, and to mitigate those threats.

“The threats posed by malicious unmanned aircraft are too great to ignore,” said Johnson in a release. “It is not enough to just tell drone operators not to fly in certain high-risk areas; we must give federal law enforcement the authority to act if necessary. By providing the DoJ and DHS with more tools in their toolbox to keep up with emerging security threats we are working towards our shared goal of a safer and more prosperous America.”

The legislation received bipartisan support.

“Advances in technology improve the lives of all Americans, but those advances can also create new ways for terrorists and other bad actors to attack our country,” McCaskill said in a release. “This bill is about ensuring that we can quickly and responsibly respond to those emerging threats and keep communities and families around the country safe.”

The Department of Homeland Security Data Framework Act of 2018, sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., directs the Secretary of DHS develop a data framework that integrates the myriad of data sets and systems from DHS agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection. The end goal of the legislation is to enable analysts at DHS to quickly and efficiently access data from any of the department’s component agencies.

“Right now, information on potential threats to our homeland is not easily accessible across different agencies at the Department of Homeland Security, making it harder for our dedicated intelligence analysts to connect the dots and identify terrorist threats,” Senator Hassan said when she first introduced the legislation in February. “This common-sense bill will help ensure that counterterrorism analysts at DHS agencies such as the Secret Service and TSA can quickly and efficiently access data from across the entire department.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.