Senators told of ‘alarming’ level of drone incursions at southern border

Ian McKinney
5 Min Read

Cartels are sending as many as 1,000 unmanned drones across the
border every month, sometimes smuggling drugs but more often probing the
border for vulnerabilities, a Pentagon official told a Senate committee
this month.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Gregory Guillot, who assumed command
of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command in February, told the Senate Armed
Services Committee that countering unmanned aircraft systems had
“dominated … the first month” of his tenure. Senators started asking
about drone flights around military bases, but the discussion then
turned to incursions across the border.

Guillot said
he believes the majority of border drone encounters come from
“spotters, trying to find gaps, finding out where we are, so they can be
where we aren’t” but that “a smaller number that are probably moving
narcotics across the border.”

It was not the first time lawmakers have heard reports of massive
drone incursions at the border. Gloria Chavez, chief patrol agent for
Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, told the House
Oversight Committee
in February 2023 that her sector had “over 10,000 drone incursions and
25,000 at-the-border drone detections” over a one-year period.

Guillot told lawmakers that he does not believe the drones pose a
national security threat, but conceded there is that potential in the

“I haven’t seen any threat to the level of national defense, but I see the potential only growing,” he said.

That was little comfort to Rep. Eli Crane, R-Oro Valley.

“It’s extremely alarming when you just refer to the implementation of
drones that cartels are now using for their ultimate purpose of making
profit,” Crane said.

He said the onus of solving the problem is “100%” on President Joe
Biden, on whom he blamed the historic surge in migrants at the southern

“To some extent, there is a mass migration of people all over the
world, but if you look at where they’re going, they’re going to
countries that are opening their borders,” said Crane, adding that the
Biden administration’s “policies encourage and facilitate this type of

But some lawmakers have stepped up.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the Drone Act
of 2023 last January. That bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Mark
Kelly, D-Ariz., would make it a crime to fly a drone across the border,
use it to deliver contraband or interfere with law enforcement, among
other prohibitions.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced the Protecting the Border from Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Act, last May. That bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen.
Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., would require more interagency collaboration to
stop drone incursions.

Neither bill has received a Senate vote.

Guillot said he does not know the actual number of drone incursions,
“I don’t think anybody does, but it’s in the thousands.” Neither the
Federal Aviation Administration nor the Department of Homeland Security
was able to provide Cronkite News data on drone incursions.

Guillot added that some of the drone activity at the border is “our
own. It’s doing the same thing, to try to find where that activity is
and make sure that we’re prepared to stop it.”

He said that some steps have been taken to combat the encounters, but
more work needs to be done to make sure the drone threat can be
responded to “safely, without interfering with our airspace structure.”

“The (military) services do have authorities, but work remains to be
done to ensure that there are resources there quickly and that we have
standardized operating procedures to address those threats,” Guillot

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Ian McKinney ,
border Vivrr Local | , 2024-03-29 13:57:18
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