Leaked slideshow shows drone lobby group taking major role in crafting drone legislation

By Madison Ruppert

Editor of End the Lie

Recently I reported on H.R.658, known as the “FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act,” which greatly accelerates the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the American National Airspace System (NAS).

A recent report from Lee Fang of the Republic Report has made this entire situation even more troubling with the revelation that the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) might have played a key role in the creation of this legislation.

A few points to consider before we take this supposedly leaked PowerPoint presentation as gospel: the Republic Report appears to have been online for one month, with the domain originally purchased on November 18, 2011 and last updated on January 24, 2012.

It is a project of UnitedRepublic.org which wasregistered on July 20, 2011 and appears to have essentially come out of nowhere at some point last year with their “about us” reading, “In the fall of 2011, we joined forces with Rootstrikers, a group founded by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig” and they also mention, “we’ve recently merged with the Get Money Out campaign, an effort started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan that shares similar goals.”

They seem to be a non-profit endeavor with a large staff with close ties to the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress with some strange team members like Jack Abramoff who sits as a senior fellow.

All this leads me to conclude that whatever is coming out of the Republic Report right now should be taken with a grain of salt, hence the “alleged” in the headline.

I’m simply attempting to encourage all of my readers to constantly examine the sources of their information in order to stay as informed as possible.

Setting aside the questionable nature of the Republic Report, their team, and their funding sources, the slideshow, which Lee Fang claims was “obtained by Republic Report” contains some bombshell information.

You can go through the entire presentation, assembled by individuals Fang characterizes as “top AUVS lobbyists” including Michael Toscano, Mario Mairena, and Ben Gielow below or skip down for some of the highlights.

AUVSI maintains an official partnership with Congressmen Buck McKeon, a Republican for California and Henry Cueller, a Democrat from Texas along with dozens of other legislators.

The presentation raises some quite disturbing points which give a great insight into the war profiteering industry and the disturbing growth of the use of drones domestically, including the need to maintain global conflict.

On slide five, they run down how the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) market is booming with the 2010 global market estimated to be between $5.5 billion and $6 billion with a rate of 3-5% growth over the next ten years.

They also run down some factors which will either positively or negatively impact the growth of the UAS market. These include:

  1. Access to Airspace (this was achieved with H.R.658)
  2. Expansion of civil/commercial UAS operations (will now be possible under H.R.658)
  3. Global Conflict – particularly U.S. and allied nation involvement in future conflicts (if recent history has been any indicator I think it is safe to say that the U.S. and allied nations will be involved in conflicts for the foreseeable future)

Yet page six is even worse than page five because it details “AUVSI’s Advocacy Efforts on Behalf of the Industry” (where “Advocacy Efforts” is a slightly more appealing way to say lobbying) which includes bragging about the massive influence they had on the House’s FAA bill.

AUVSI is also pushing for greater law enforcement usage of drones. Part of their advocacy, detailed on slide eight, includes pushing for “Allowing for the expedited access into the NAS for public safety agencies (such as law enforcement and fire departments)” along with the more obvious point they would push for, “Consulting with the unmanned aircraft systems industry when setting policies and standards.”

While they do say on slide ten that the “DOD will most likely remain the top UAS market for the near term” they do point out that “once UAS are granted more access to the NAS, the civil market has the potential to eclipse the defense market.”

“Law Enforcement and First Responders (fire, rescue, EMS) are two of the most wide-spread, non-defense UAS applications. As smaller platforms mature and gain access to the NAS, more local police and fire departments will purchase small UAS, which they will use to protect public safety,” they write.

Some other interesting non-military applications (outlined on slide eleven) they are promoting are, suspect tracking, border surveillance, pipe/power lien surveillance, aerial photography, critical infrastructure monitoring, wildlife monitoring, traffic monitoring, damage assessment/surveying and much more.

They call themselves “the go-to advocacy source for staffers and Members on Capitol Hill,” while giving this example of their effectiveness: “the only changes made to the UAS sections of the House FAA bill were made at the request of AUVSI. Our suggestions were often taken word-for-word.”

This reminds me of when Go Daddy openly admitted that they played a major role in crafting the anti-internet freedom legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

Yet somehow this is an even more apt example of how ludicrously corrupt our political process has become.

Some of the challenges AUVSI says could be facing UAS usage in the United States include, public acceptance, cyber security (even the military’s drones are compromised), liability and insurance, export controls and most surprisingly, civil liberties.

My guess is that they’re more concerned about the public acceptance of their loss of civil liberties, not the actual civil liberties of the public itself. If they were truly concerned about civil liberties they probably wouldn’t be circumventing the democratic process and lobbying a great deal.

According to Fang’s un-cited sources, the drone industry’s lobbying expenditures have more than doubled from 2010 to 2011. In 2009 and 2010 they spent $120,000 in disclosed funds and according to their analysis they disclosed $280,000 in 2011.

Of course this spending is practically infinitesimal compared to the overall lobbying expenditures from defense contractors. When considered together, the defense contractors easily dwarf most other lobbies.

It never ceases to amaze me when I come across examples of how corrupt our political system has truly become, even more so considering how it is more openly corrupt than ever.