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HR 2518, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, authorizes over $14.7 billion in appropriations to the Coast Guard for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years. This is an increase of over $10 billion from the 2016/2017 authorization.

Included in the bill is Section 206, which would amend Chapter 3 of title 14, United States Code, by adding that ”the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating shall establish a land-based unmanned aircraft system program under the control of the Commandant of the Coast Guard.” In this context, “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS) does not include “small” unmanned aircraft (i.e., an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds). The section includes a restriction that the Coast Guard may not award a contract for the design of an unmanned aircraft system during any fiscal year for which funds are appropriated for the design or construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter(OPC), reinforcing the OPC as the Coast Guard’s highest investment priority.

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