FY2013 NDAA Passes Senate Without INKSNA, Liability, Orion/SLS, or Export Control Reform

FY2013 NDAA Passes Senate Without INKSNA, Liability, Orion/SLS, or Export Control Reform

The Senate passed the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 98-0 on Tuesday.    Amendments that could have affected NASA, FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and export controls of commercial satellites were never considered.  The bill does, however, retain provisions affecting national security space programs approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) when it reported the bill in June.

The text of the final Senate version of the bill is published in the December 5, 2012 Congressional Record.  The Senate bill, S. 3254, was subsequently passed again as an amendment to the House bill (H.R. 4310), which passed the House and was sent to the Senate in May.   That is the first legislative step in enabling the two sides to conference on a compromise version to send to the President.

Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) had amendments that would have extended the FAA’s authority to indemnify commercial space launch companies against third-party claims for another two years and extended a waiver for NASA from the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) limitations on contracting with Russia for services related to the International Space Station.  The Hutchison amendment also would have directed NASA on how to allocate funds for the Space Launch System and Orion.   Neither made it to the Senate floor for debate and the two Senators subsequently introduced compromise language as S. 3661, which keeps open the option for additional legislative action before Congress adjourns later this month.   The House already passed a bill to extend the indemnification authority (H.R. 6586).

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) had an amendment to ease export controls for commercial satellites, but that also was not brought up for debate.  The House-passed version of the NDAA already has language on this topic, so a compromise version could be negotiated during conference.

Although those issues were not included, the final Senate version of the bill retained provisions included by the Senate Armed Services Committee related to space activities.  For example, Sec. 912 gives the Department of Defense (DOD) flexibility in making cooperative arrangements with commercial space launch companies and public-private partnerships pertaining to space transportation infrastructure.  The objectives of the section including maximizing private sector use of DOD space transportation infrastructure, reducing the costs of services provided by DOD at launch support and space recovery support facilities, and enabling “covered entities” — non-Federal entities organized under U.S. law that engage in commercial space activities — to invest in DOD’s space transportation infrastructure.

Another section requires DOD to develop schedules for major satellite acquisition programs that integrate the schedules for the satellite and its ground systems.   The final Senate version of the bill also keeps language authorizing an additional $125 million to keep both commercial satellite imagery companies, GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, in business.  The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) made clear earlier this year that it plans to fund only one company.  GeoEye and DigitalGlobe consequently announced plans to merge, a decision that is currently under review by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Antitrust Division.  DOJ requested additional information from the companies in September.

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