On February 8, 2023, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act of 2023, comprehensive legislation to streamline the approvals process for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights and clear the way for drones to be used for commercial transport of goods across the country – making sure that the U.S. remains competitive globally in a growing industry increasingly dominated by competitors like China.
Currently, each aircraft and each BVLOS operation that takes flight requires unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators to seek waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but the FAA has not laid out any consistent set of criteria for the granting of waivers, making the process for approving drone flights slow and unpredictable. The bipartisan Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act will require the FAA to issue a new rule allowing BVLOS operations under certain circumstances.
“Drones have the ability to transform so much of the way we do business. Beyond package delivery, drones can change the way we grow crops, manage disasters, maintain our infrastructure, and administer medicine,” said Sen. Warner. “If we want the drones of tomorrow to be manufactured in the U.S. and not in China, we have to start working today to integrate them into our airspace. Revamping the process for approving commercial drone flight will catapult the United States into the 21st century, allowing us to finally start competing at the global level as technological advancements make drone usage ever more common.”
“Drones have the potential to transform the economy, with innovative opportunities for transportation and agriculture that would benefit rural states like South Dakota,” said Sen. Thune. “I’m proud to support this legislation that provides a clear framework for the approval of complex drone operations, furthering the integration of these aircraft into the National Airspace System.”
Specifically, the bill requires the FAA to establish a “risk methodology,” which will be used to determine what level of regulatory scrutiny is required:
- Operators of small UAS under 55lbs simply have to declare that they conducted a risk assessment and meet the standard, subject to audit compliance by the FAA.
- Operators of UAS between 55lbs and 1320lbs must submit materials based on the risk assessment to the FAA to seek a “Special Airworthiness Certificate.” UAS in this category may be limited to operating no more than 400 feet above ground level.
- Finally, operators of UAS over 1320lbs must undergo the full “type certification” process—the standard approval process for crewed aircraft.
In addition, the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act would create the position of “Associate Administrator of UAS Integration” as well as a UAS Certification Unit that would have the sole authority to issue all rulemakings, certifications, and waivers. This new organizational structure would create central rulemaking body for UAS, allowing for a more uniform process.
“Commercial drone operations provide valuable services to the American public and workforce – but significant regulatory hurdles are hampering these benefits from reaching their fullest potential and jeopardize U.S. global leadership in aviation. The regulatory challenges are not driven by safety, they are hampered by bureaucracy. We accordingly have urged Congress to prioritize drone integration, and we are grateful for the support of Senators Warner and Thune in this cause. AUVSI is proud to endorse this legislation, and we urge Congress to include it as part of their critical work this year to pass a multi-year FAA Reauthorization,” Michael Robbins, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), said.
“The Coalition is grateful for the leadership of Senators Thune and Warner, and this bill comes at a pivotal time for the drone industry. Since 2012, Congress has worked to progress the law and regulation around commercial drone use, but now, in 2023, this progress has slowed as regulations and approvals continue to be delayed. With reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs required by September 30, this year is a critical time for the drone industry,” said The Small UAV Coalition.
“The Commercial Drone Alliance applauds the introduction of the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act of 2023, and we commend and thank Senator Warner and Senator Thune for their leadership on these important issues. While the U.S. has lagged behind other countries in developing and deploying uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), this legislation provides the U.S. with the opportunity to reestablish its prominence as a global leader in advanced aviation and compete more effectively in the global economy,” said The Commercial Drone Alliance.
Sen. Warner has been a strong supporter of research and investment in unmanned systems, including driverless cars, drones, and unmanned maritime vehicles. He previously introduced legislation designed to advance the development of UAS and build on the FAA’s efforts to safely integrate them into the National Airspace System. Virginia is home to one of seven FAA-approved sites across the country where researchers are testing the safest and most effective ways to incorporate UAS into the existing airspace – including the first-ever package delivery by drone to take place in the United States. Last October, Sen. Warner visited the headquarters of DroneUp, a leader in independent drone delivery contracting, in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Full text of the legislation is available here.
Virginia’s Small Businesses Brace for Impending Shutdown
Senators Warner & Kaine Sound the Alarm on Funding Delays and Business Impact.
As the clock ticks down with only a day left to the government funding deadline, Virginia’s small business sector stands on the edge, looking at a precarious future. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine have voiced their concern, emphasizing the potential derailment of businesses in Virginia if the government fails to reach a consensus on its budget.
“Small businesses are not just numbers on a spreadsheet; they’re the beating heart of our communities,” the senators noted. “Many of these enterprises, fundamental to our economy, rely significantly on the Small Business Administration’s support. However, with the looming shutdown, this crucial lifeline could soon be cut off. And what’s concerning is that this crisis isn’t born of broad disagreements but due to a specific subset of representatives placing demands above the needs of the community.”
The primary concern remains the inability of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to greenlight new loans or alter existing ones through their 7(a) and 504 programs during a shutdown. Breaking down the numbers reveals the gravity of the situation: an estimated financing delay of $2,122,200 daily for Virginia’s small businesses.
This year, the positive momentum was evident as the SBA approved 955 loans, amassing a value of over $488 million, propelling Virginia businesses through their 7(a) program. But this momentum is at risk of being stalled.
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices Survey underscores the sentiments of the business owners. A staggering 91% believe it’s paramount for the federal government to circumvent a shutdown. Moreover, 70% of these owners foresee a negative impact on their establishments if the shutdown ensues. Drilling further into the data, 93% anticipate revenue reduction, while 67% predict a drop in customer demand, attributing it to the ensuing economic uncertainty and instability.
While policy decisions and political wrangling continue, the real impact cascades down to the businesses and, by extension, the people of Virginia. As Senator Warner and Kaine reiterated, “We remain committed to working in a bipartisan way to fund the government as quickly as possible.” Time will tell if their efforts and the voices of the business community will resonate within the halls of Congress.
Virginia Airports to Receive Over $17.2 Million for Vital Upgrades
Investments Aim to Bolster Safety, Infrastructure, and Economic Potential.
Virginia’s skies are about to become safer and more efficient. Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine disclosed a significant grant of $17,259,239 aimed at enhancing several airports across the state.
This hearty financial injection comes courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s 2023 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Grant Program. An initiative of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the AIP focuses on the crucial infrastructural elements of our airports. These range from primary aspects like runways and taxiways to the details of lighting, signage, and markings that ensure efficient and safe airport operations.
The latest allocation is a continuation of the ongoing support, with Virginia’s regional airports having benefited from an impressive $56,828,185 through the AIP just this year.
Speaking about this financial boost, the senators jointly expressed, “Our regional airports are pivotal for economic growth in our communities. We’re excited that these funds will enhance safety and reliability by upgrading infrastructure at various airports across the Commonwealth.”
Here’s a breakdown of the allocation:
- Winchester Regional Airport receives $4,875,000 to refresh its apron.
- Leesburg Executive Airport gets $4,018,500 for its apron rehabilitation, a project Senator Kaine highlighted in a recent visit.
- Danville Regional Airport is set to use $3,401,884 to revamp its apron.
- Manassas Regional Airport obtains $3,348,877 for taxiway reconstruction.
- Accomack County Airport in Melfa will use $951,500 to build a taxiway and manage obstructions in its airspace.
- Lee County Airport in Jonesville receives $600,748, focusing on navigation aids and runway upgrades.
- Finally, Mountain Empire Airport in Smyth County gets $62,730 for equipment housing repairs related to airfield lighting systems.
In addition to their most recent announcement, both Warner and Kaine have a history of staunchly backing Virginia’s airports. Just earlier this year, the senators heralded grants totaling over $50 million combined, aimed at amplifying airport safety and capacity. Kaine’s endeavors seek to remedy aviation workforce gaps, laying a roadmap for the education and nurturing of pilots, aviation maintenance staff, and aerospace manufacturing professionals.
In the grand tapestry of modern infrastructure, airports serve as pivotal nodes connecting communities and spurring economic growth. With this latest financial commitment, Virginia’s future in the aviation domain seems to be on an assured upward trajectory.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – September 2, 2023
House Republicans have hit the ground running during the District Work Period, highlighting how the new House Republican Majority continues to deliver on our Commitment to America. We ensured our Veterans, our service members, and their families have the resources they deserve. Combatting illegal immigration and restoring America’s sovereignty is a central pillar of our Commitment, and the passage of the Secure the Border Act fulfills that promise. We’ve also held the Biden Administration and federal agencies, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), accountable to the American people and brought transparency back to how our country is governed. As your Representative, I’ll fight for your values and interests in Washington as Congress returns this fall and help protect the safety, security, and freedom for the people of the Sixth District.
Keeping Our Promise to Our Nation’s Veterans
Congress has a duty to fund the core functions of the federal government responsibly, providing for important programs that help take care of those who have taken care of us. At the top of the list are our Veterans, our service members, and their families. Our Nation’s heroes have sacrificed to give us the cherished freedoms that we have today, and we made a promise to ensure they have the support and resources they deserve.
House Republicans delivered on that promise recently by passing the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act — funding that is so important to those who selflessly serve to defend our freedom and protect our homeland. Rest assured, our Nation’s heroes will always have the unwavering support of their Representative in the Sixth District of Virginia. Read more in my op-ed in the Roanoke Times here.
Biden’s Border Crisis Rages On
President Biden and the Far Left’s open border policies have created the worst border crisis on record. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, there were 183,503 illegal border crossings in July, a 27% increase from June. Even more troubling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has now admitted that 40% of illegal migrants caught and released into our communities have disappeared, with no way to track them.
A secure Nation requires a secure border, which is why earlier this year, House Republicans passed the Secure The Border Act – the strongest border security legislation that Congress has ever considered. While President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have no plans to get this chaos under control or take any responsibility, we’re fighting to stop it.
Demanding Answers on CCP-Linked Money Going to NIH Employees
It’s no secret that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remains one of the biggest threats to our country and will do whatever it takes to gain an advantage in its quest for world domination. According to a recent report, National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees – including Dr. Anthony Fauci – took $325 million in payments from companies directly linked to the CCP, posing a risk to our national security.
The American people deserve to know that their public health officials follow the science and make decisions based purely on objective information, not personal financial motives, which is why I joined my colleagues in demanding answers from the NIH on this concerning report. House Republicans will continue working to hold the Big Bureaucracy accountable and ensure our national security is protected from those who wish us harm. Read our letter here.
National Aviation Week
120 years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright took their first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Decades later, in commemoration of National Aviation Week, we celebrate the many aviation trailblazers who paved the way and innovative businesses shaping today’s industry, such as Dynamic Aviation in the Sixth District, which have helped our Nation be the leader in aviation that it is today.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Congressman Cline Announces Mobile Office Hours in Front Royal
A Direct Link Between Constituents and their Representative.
In a bid to foster open communication and transparency, Congressman Ben Cline has announced the next Mobile Office Hours.in Warren County. This program emphasizes the congressman’s commitment to ensuring his constituents have direct access to their elected representative’s office.
At the heart of democracy is the dialogue between elected officials and the people they represent. Recognizing this pivotal connection, Congressman Cline’s office has been organizing Mobile Office Hours throughout his district. These events aim to provide a platform for constituents to directly communicate their concerns, particularly when dealing with federal agencies.
Navigating the labyrinth of federal bureaucracies like the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, or the Internal Revenue Service can be daunting. Oftentimes, individuals find themselves entangled in red tape, struggling to get their concerns heard. With the Mobile Office Hours initiative, constituents can bypass these hurdles, as they will be given the opportunity to discuss their issues with a knowledgeable member of Congressman Cline’s staff.
The upcoming session in Front Royal promises to be an essential event for those seeking guidance or assistance. Details of the event are as follows:
- Date: September 12th, 2023
- Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
- Venue: Samuels Public Library, specifically in the Baxter-Bowling Conference Room
- Address: 330 East Criser Road, Front Royal, VA 22630
Given the direct impact such sessions can have on resolving issues related to federal agencies, a strong turnout is anticipated. These office hours underline the essence of public service and representative democracy, making sure the voices of the district’s constituents are not just heard but also acted upon.
The cornerstone of effective representation lies in understanding the concerns of one’s constituents. Through Mobile Office Hours, Congressman Ben Cline exemplifies his dedication to bridging the gap between his office and the people he serves. By bringing his office directly to the constituents, he reaffirms his commitment to open dialogue and transparent governance. Residents of Front Royal and the surrounding areas are encouraged to leverage this opportunity to address any challenges they might be facing with federal agencies.
Warner Calls on AI Companies to Ramp Up Safety & Security Measures
Letters raise the urgent need for companies to expand and deepen their commitments to safeguard against misuse.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged several artificial intelligence (AI) companies to take additional action to promote safety and prevent malicious misuse of their products. In a series of letters, Sen. Warner applauded certain companies for publicly joining voluntary commitments proposed by the Biden administration but encouraged them to broaden their efforts and called on companies that have not taken this public step to commit to making their products more secure.
As AI is rolled out more broadly, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated a number of concerning, exploitable weaknesses in prominent products, including abilities to generate credible-seeming misinformation, develop malware, and craft sophisticated phishing techniques. In July, the Biden administration announced that several AI companies had agreed to a series of voluntary commitments that would promote greater security and transparency. However, the commitments were not fully comprehensive in scope or in participation, with many companies not publicly participating and several exploitable aspects of the technology left untouched by the commitments.
In a series of letters sent today, Sen. Warner pushed directly on companies that did not participate, including Apple, Midjourney, Mistral AI, Databricks, Scale AI, and Stability AI, requesting a response detailing the steps they plan to take to increase the security of their products and prioritize transparency. Sen. Warner additionally sent letters to companies that were involved in the Biden administration’s commitments, including Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection AI, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI, asking that they extend commitments to less capable models and also develop consumer-facing commitments – such as development and monitoring practices – to prevent the most serious forms of misuse.
“While representing an important improvement upon the status quo, the voluntary commitments announced in July can be bolstered in key ways through additional commitments,” Sen. Warner wrote.
Sen. Warner also called specific attention to the urgent need for all AI companies to make additional commitments to safeguard against a few highly sensitive potential misuses, including non-consensual intimate image generation (including child sexual abuse material), social-scoring, real-time facial recognition, and proliferation activity in the context of malicious cyber activity or the production of biological or chemical agents.
The letters follow up on Sen. Warner’s previous efforts to engage directly with AI companies to push for responsible development and deployment. In April, Sen. Warner directly called on AI CEOs to develop practices that would ensure that their products and systems are secure. In July, he also pushed on the Biden administration to keep working with AI companies to expand the scope of the voluntary commitments.
Additionally, Sen. Warner wrote to Google last week to raise concerns about their testing of new AI technology in real medical settings. Separately, he urged the CEOs of several AI companies to address a concerning report that generative chatbots were producing instructions on how to exacerbate an eating disorder. Additionally, he has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making tech safer and more humane, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
Copies of each of the letters can be found here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 8, 2023
It was great to be back home in the Sixth District and hear directly from folks up and down the Valley about the issues most important to them and their families. Unfortunately, this week we received another reminder that “Bidenomics” is crushing our economy, and the American people are paying the price. On a brighter note, we celebrated the 233rd birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard and hosted “Coffee With Your Congressman” town hall events in Rockingham County and Rockbridge County. We also spoke with and thanked law enforcement officers in our community during National Night Out, and I congratulated the new graduates of the Roanoke Police Academy and Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy. As I continue my travels across the community during the District Work Period, I look forward to meeting with more constituents and businesses across the Valley.
Celebrating the Coast Guard On Their 233rd Birthday
As we celebrated the 233rd birthday of the United States Coast Guard this week, we honored, cherished, remembered, and thanked its members for their service and sacrifice. Since 1790, its members have met the challenging mission of keeping the Nation’s waterways safe and playing a critical role in national security. Semper Paratus!
Fitch Downgrades Credit Rating
This past week, the American people received another sad reminder that “Bidenomics” is not working for them. Fitch, an American credit rating agency, downgraded the United States credit rating for the first time since 1994 due to rising government deficits, significant increases to our federal debt, and higher interest rates. The worst part? Fitch also projected a Q4 recession.
The Biden Administration and the Democrats’ reckless government spending has contributed to this financial crisis, and the American people are suffering as credit card bills and mortgage rates skyrocket. That’s why House Republicans are continuing to fight to rein in spending and restore fiscal responsibility in Washington to get our economy back on track so hardworking families can thrive.
Watch my interview on Fox Business discussing the downgrading of the credit rating.
The Long Blue Line Continues
I was honored to congratulate the graduates of the 85th Roanoke Police Academy and the 66th Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy. Thank you to all of the young men and women wearing the badge for courageously answering the call and undertaking this most strenuous but utterly essential job of enforcing our laws and serving on the front lines of justice.
Coffee With Your Congressman
One of the best ways to stay in tune with Sixth District Residents is to hear directly from them on issues of concern or matters regarding the federal government. This week I held “Coffee With Your Congressman” events in Rockbridge and Rockingham Counties. I found attendees questions to be insightful and valuable to my work as their representative in Washington. Stay tuned for the next event coming to an area near you!
National Night Out
It was great to join folks in Bridgewater at one of the many events across the Sixth District for the National Night Out. We salute all our friends who serve in law enforcement, in public safety, and as first responders for all, they do to keep our communities safe.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.