Hutchison Wants Border Drones in Emergency War Funding

The bill would make $144 million available to CBP for six systems.
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The FAA recently said it's streamlining the approval of unmanned aerial vehicles above the U.S.-Mexico border, but U.S Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) wants to go deeper, calling for $144 million in emergency war funding to expand the drone use with at least six new systems on the border from Texas to California.

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UAV in flight "Failure of the federal government to effectively secure our borders threatens the safety of border communities and puts our national security at risk. To address illegal immigration and to protect communities from the violence associated with narco-terrorism and drug and arms trafficking, we must employ state-of-the-art border monitoring and security techniques," said Hutchison. "I have introduced legislation that will give border enforcement officials the resources and the manpower to monitor all 2,000 miles of our shared border every single day. UAVs and other high-tech tools must be a part of our 21st century approach to keeping our nation safe."

Hutchison, who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Texas Gov. Rick Perry in March and has faced questions about her conservative credentials, is the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the FAA.

She said the convened a meeting recently among FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt and members of the Texas Congressional Delegation, in which Babbitt committed to working closely with CBP to approve the use of UAVs along the entire Texas border before the end of the summer. He also agreed to create a streamlined process so that future requests to expand UAV coverage in Texas and the rest of the nation can be approved much more quickly than has been experienced to date, Hutchison said in a statement.

The amendment to the emergency war funding appropriation bill (aimed mainly at maintaining the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), makes available $144 million to Customs and Border Patrol and would be offset by uncommitted funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) are cosponsors.

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