Department of Defense bans the purchase of commercial-over-the-shelf UAS, including DJI drones effective immediately

Department of Defense bans the purchase of commercial-over-the-shelf UAS, including DJI drones effective immediately 2

It seems that the letter that was sent by Chris Murphy, the Junior Senator from Connecticut on May 7th, has led to the Department of Defense (DoD) banning the purchase of commercial-over-the-shelf UAS, including DJI drones for most (if not all) departments. The ban went into effect immediately (as of May 23rd, 2018.

Dept. of Defense bans purchase of COTS UAS

As we reported earlier, on May 7th, Chris Murphy, the Junior Senator from Connecticut had sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, expressing his concerns over an additional purchase of 16 DJI drones in addition to the hundreds of DJI’s drones already purchased by U.S. government agencies and the Department of Defense. Citing security risks, the Senator urges the DoD to ban foreign-made drones. He wrote:

“I encourage you to, at a minimum, consider a DoD-wide directive banning the use of UAS owned by or manufactured in a foreign nation until further threat-assessments can be completed.”

Through one of our sources, we learned that the DoD did indeed issue a ban on the purchase of COTS UAS, including DJI. We filed an FOIA request to obtain the original document but received an interim response, informing us that:

“We (DoD) will not be able to respond within the FOIA’s 20-day statutory time period as they are unusual circumstances which impact our ability to quickly process your request.”

That was a bit of a disappointment, but it seems that the document we were after, has made its way to the media anyway, as we found today that sUAS News was able to get their hands on a copy. Well done!

Memorandum from the Dept. of Defense

Here is the official text from the unclassified/for official use only memo:

“SUBJECT: (U/FOUO) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

(U/FOUO) On May 14, 2018 the DoD Inspector General found that DoD has not implemented an adequate process to access cybersecurity risks associated with using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

(U/FOUO) Effectively immediately, you must suspend purchases of COTS UAS for operational use until the DoD develops a strategy to adequately assess and mitigate the risks associated with their use.

(U/FOUO) In addition you must suspend the use of COTS UASs until the DoD identifies and fields a solution to mitigate known cybersecurity risks.

(U/FOUO) I hold approval authority for any requests for exemptions, on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs.

(U/FOUO) The points of contact for this matter are Ms Ellen M, Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and Mr, Dana Deasy, Department of Defense Chiefs Information Officer.”

The memo was sent to:

  • Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense
  • Secretaries of the Military Departments
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Under Secretaries of Defense
  • Chief of the National Guard Bureau
  • Commanders of the Combatant Commands
  • General Counsel of the Department of Defense
  • Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation
  • Inspector General of the Department of Defense
  • Director Operation Test and Evaluation
  • Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs
  • Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
  • Director of Net Assessment
  • Directors of Defense Agencies
  • Directors of DoD Field Activities

Interim response to DroneDJ FOIA request


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