Industry Praises House Passage of Defense Authorization Bill Easing Satellite Export Controls

Industry Praises House Passage of Defense Authorization Bill Easing Satellite Export Controls

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) lauded House passage today of the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4310.   As passed, the bill includes an amendment adopted yesterday that could ease export controls on commercial satellites, which the organizations support.  CSF has a caveat, however, saying it is unclear if the amendment also covers “the spaceflight participant experience.” 

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), and co-sponsored by HASC chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon and other influential members, restores to the President the authority to decide whether commercial satellites are governed by the U.S. Munitions List (USML) and its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) or the dual-use Commerce Control List (CCL).  In a press release, SIA President Patricia Cooper called it a “vital step for the U.S. satellite industry.”  AIA said it welcomed the action by the House and urged the Senate to follow suit. 

CSF also commended the easing of export controls on commercial satellites, but cautioned in a press statement that the language “is somewhat unclear on whether the commercial spaceflight participant experience and training are among the items the President has the authority to remove” from the USML.    “Spaceflight participant” is the formal name for what is more commonly called a space tourist.  CSF Executive Director Alex Saltman said CSF would work with the House and Senate to clarify that it should not be regulated under the USML.

Saltman went on to say that “We also support the removal of manned suborbital spacecraft from the U.S. Munitions List, as these vehicles now have countless civilian uses, and the eventual removal of all civilian spacecraft. The Commerce Control List is the appropriate place to regulate these vehicles, as it has successfully regulated many dual-use technologies with predominantly civilian uses in the past. We look forward to working with the Administration and Members of Congress to modernize the US Munitions List so that it effectively protects our national security without impeding the growth of American industries and jobs.”

The House action followed release of a congressionally-required report from the Departments of Defense and State on the national security implications of transferring commercial satellites from the USML to the CCL.   The “section 1248 report,” referring to the section of the FY2010 DOD authorization act that required the report, strongly recommended that the authority to decide which export control regime governs commercial satellites be restored to the President.  Congress removed that authority in the FY1999 National Defense Authorization Act in the wake of congressional findings that U.S. satellite manufacturers advanced Chinese missile development by aiding in analysis of Chinese launch failures carrying U.S.-built satellites.  China is one of several countries to which satellite exports still are prohibited under the terms of the amendment.

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