The U.S. government has taken another step to restrict the use of Chinese-made drones by government agencies.
The GSA restricts some drones from being included on government procurement lists
By DRONELIFE Staff Writer Jim Magill
In the recent skirmish in the ongoing war between the federal government and manufacturers of Chinese-made drones, the General Services Administration announced Tuesday that it would only offer to source five models of drones for other government agencies that have been approved by the Special Department of Defense (DoD) ) Program.
In a post on its GSA Interact blog, the GSA said, “Due to the significant risk associated with offering small unmanned aerial vehicles under its Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program, it would remove all drone models from MAS procurement contracts except those approved by DoDs. ” Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) through its Blue sUAS program.
Multiple Award Schedules are long-term, government-wide agreements with retail companies that provide federal, state and local government buyers with access to more than 11 million commercial products and services at volume discount prices.
A GSA spokeswoman told DroneLife that the agencies’ action will not prevent other federal agencies from acquiring non-blue SUAS drones through routes outside of the GSA, and that the action will have no impact on agencies that are currently non-blue have SUAS drones in their inventory.
The GSA has stopped awarding drones under new MAS contracts starting this month and is now working to remove drones currently being awarded under MAS contracts by February 1, the spokesman said.
“The GSA estimates the costs to be minimal, as this measure only affects about 20 MAS contracts. However, none of these contracts will be terminated completely, as these contracts contain other product offerings, ”said the spokesman.
Like other government agencies that have tried in recent years to ban federal agencies’ use of drones made in countries hostile to US interests – especially China – the GSA is raising the specter that the use is such drones have the potential of being a security threat.
“The increase in the purchase and use of drones / UAS devices, referred to herein as ‘drones’, poses a number of unique challenges and security risks such as surveillance, theft, disruption and / or use of selective federal intelligence or federal intelligence networks, the GSA said.
The GSA also highlights China, which produces the vast majority of the world’s drones, and states that there is an increased risk of non-compliance with existing procurement laws, including the Trade Agreement Act (TAA) and Section 889 of the National Defense Permit Act for fiscal year 19 .
Section 889 contains a transitional rule issued by DoD, GSA, and NASA that prohibits any executive agency from entering into, or extending, or renewing a contract with any company that uses equipment, systems, or services that use covered telecommunications equipment or services to have an essential or essential component of a system or as a critical technology as part of a system on or after August 13, 2020, unless an exception is made or a waiver is granted. “
Five drones are approved for use by the U.S. military and other federal agencies under the Blue SUAS program. These are: the Altavian Ion M440 C, the Parrot Anafi-USA, the Skydio X2D, the Teal Golden Eagle and the Vantage Robotics Vesper. However, the GSA left the door open for other drone manufacturers to return to the approved MAS list, “should the GSA identify and implement an appropriate strategy to mitigate risk”.
“The GSA values its partnership with its contractors and is keen to investigate how drones can be safely offered under MAS. Affected contractors may have the opportunity to include non-blue SUAS drones in their MAS contracts in the future, ”said the spokesman.
This process would require contractors to work with their contract agents to add drones that comply with government guidelines through the change process established by the GSA.
The GSA ban is just the latest effort by a federal agency to severely restrict the use of China-made drones by US government agencies and other drone customers. Last month, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted DJI by adding the China-based drone maker to the department’s “Entity” list. Inclusion on the list means that DJI has been identified as a company that “carries a significant risk of engaging in or engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.
In October, the Justice Department stated that no agency could use DOJ funds on unmanned aircraft that are “manufactured by a covered foreign entity … or subject to an extrajudicial order from a foreign government,” including drones supplied by DJI and other Chinese ones Companies were established.
In early October, Interior Minister David Bernhardt sent a memo to the Home Office (DOI) leaders instructing them to buy future US-made drones. The move follows a decision by the DOI last January to ground its fleet of nearly 1,000 drones, amid concerns that the fleet was made up of Chinese-made drones or contained Chinese-made components.