Export Controls Subject of First House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing in 2010

Export Controls Subject of First House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing in 2010

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will kick off the second session of the 111th Congress by holding a field hearing on “Impact of Export Controls on National Security, Science and Technological Leadership.” One of the witnesses will be John Hennessy, President of Stanford University, and the hearing will be held at Stanford on January 15, 2010 at 11:00 am PST (2:00 pm EST).

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Hennessy was co-chair, together with former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, of the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) study on export controls released last year. The study — Beyond “Fortress America”: National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World — concluded that current export controls “undermine our national security and our national economic well-being.” The House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing on the topic last year at which Gen. Scowcroft testified.

Another witness at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing will be William Potter, Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Other witnesses may be announced later.

Space and defense experts have contended for the past decade that current implementation of U.S. export controls negatively impacts U.S. national security and industrial competitiveness. Called ITAR, for International Traffic in Arms Regulations, some joke that it is the biggest four letter word in the space business. Congress mandated strong scrutiny of space-related exports in the wake of allegations that U.S. satellite manufacturers were aiding China in developing missile technology by helping them analyze Chinese launch failures of U.S. built satellites. A congressional investigation resulted in the “Cox committee report” and subsequent legislation returning commercial communications satellites to the stricter oversight of the State Department’s “munitions list” instead of the Department of Commerce’s dual-use list in 1999. A 2006 Congressional Research Service report summarizes the Cox committee and other congressional activity up to that time (beginning on page 10).

A number of reports by expert groups have been written over the past decade, each raising the alarm about the impact of ITAR on the ability of U.S. companies to compete with “ITAR-free” products from other countries and other negative impacts. Among them, the NRC’s Space Studies Board issued a workshop report on the impact of ITAR on space science in 2008, and another in 2009 on international cooperation and competition in space that addressed ITAR. On the other side of the issue are those committed to ensuring that U.S. technology does not get into the wrong hands regardless of the impact on corporate profits. The issue is quite polarized.

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