Senate Debating NDAA, Including ITAR, INKSNA, Launch Liability, and SLS/Orion Funding Amendments

Senate Debating NDAA, Including ITAR, INKSNA, Launch Liability, and SLS/Orion Funding Amendments

The Senate resumed debate today on the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), S. 3254, which authorizes funding and sets policy for the Department of Defense (DOD), military construction, and military activities of the Department of Energy.   Floor consideration began yesterday.  The House passed its version in May.

Some of the 263 (at last count) proposed amendments would affect space activities and not necessarily only national security space activities.  With few pieces of legislation expected to clear Congress for the rest of this year, the NDAA is being used as a vehicle to deal with a multitude of issues.

Senate Amendment (SA) 3078, for example, introduced by Sen. Hutchison (R-TX), has three major components:

  • extend third party launch liability indemnification from December 31, 2012 to December 31, 2014, in line with a House bill passed earlier this month;
  • extend the waiver from the Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) from July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2020 that NASA needs in order to enter into new agreements with Russia for International Space Station operations ; and
  • require NASA to fund the Space Launch System and Orion and related ground systems and technology developments in FY2014 and FY2015 at the same proportional levels of the Exploration account as in FY2013.

One complication in the third provision is that the FY2013 funding level is not yet known.  The government, including NASA, is operating on a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 27, 2013 at FY2012 funding levels.

Senator Bennet (D-CO), along with Sen. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Rubio (R-FL) introduced SA 3179, the much anticipated Senate amendment to relax export controls for commercial satellites.   The House-passed version of the NDAA adopted language restoring to the President the authority to determine whether satellites are governed by the State Department’s Munitions List and its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), or the Department of Commerce’s dual-use Commerce Control List.  It would still prohibit satellite exports to China.  The language of the Bennet amendment is different from its House counterpart, but the goal is the same — to loosen export controls on commercial satellites to make them more competitive on the global market without endangering U.S. national security.


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