Report Urges Lifting Some Satellite Export Controls
By Cheryl Pellerin
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 - Officials from the Defense and State departments released a report today that urges Congress to move communications and some remote-sensing satellites off the tightly controlled U.S. Munitions List and into the commercial enterprise.
The report, conducted in accordance with section 1248 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2010, was prepared by technical and space policy experts from DOD and State, with support from the intelligence community and NASA.
In a briefing today from the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., Gregory L. Schulte, deputy assistant secretary defense for space policy, said the report "reflects a very thorough review ... that looked item by item, technology by technology, to assess the risk in moving specific items from the U.S. Munitions List to the Commerce Control List."
Schulte was joined by Lou Ann McFadden, chief of the Defense Technology Security Administration's strategic issues division.
The report summarizes a risk assessment of U.S. space export control policy, concluding that most commercial communications and remote sensing satellites and their components can be moved from the USML to the CCL without harming national security. The items include communications satellites that contain no classified components, and remote-sensing satellites with performance parameters below certain thresholds.
The satellites and their associated systems, subsystems, parts and components make up what Schulte described as "hundreds of thousands of items" that already are being sold commercially by companies around the world.
U.S. companies couldn't sell the same satellites and components because of restrictions imposed by the items' listing on the USML or control under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, called ITAR, administered by the State Department.
"We believe that, if Congress is willing, the approach laid out in this report does two things," Schulte said.
"It can strengthen our national security by energizing the industrial base that is so important to us," he added, "and by allowing our industry to compete on the global market for satellites."
In a March 8 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Schulte called the approach one of "higher fences around fewer items," and noted that no such changes could be made without legislation.
According to the report, in the interests of national and economic security, the president, and not Congress, should have the authority to determine the export-control status of satellites and space-related items.
As part of that recommendation, the report said DOD should have the authority to apply appropriate monitoring and other export-control measures to individual cases to most effectively reduce national security risks.
A fact sheet released by the White House today noted that the recommended items are controlled on the [USML] by statute, based on the requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 1999.
This makes them "the sole USML items for which the president does not have the legal authority to appropriately adjust the controls to ensure they meet current and anticipated U.S. national security requirements," the fact sheet said, "and to ensure they do not unintentionally harm the U.S. satellite industry and its supplier base."
Congress and the Obama administration "recognize the importance of this critical sector to the nation's national and economic security," the fact sheet said.
"This in-depth report shows that the United States can safely modify the export controls placed on satellites and related component technology that are widely available, while maintaining firm control on systems and technologies deemed truly critical to national security," Jim Miller, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, said today in a statement.
The report confirmed the need for some space-related items to remain on the list -- those that contain critical components, technologies and implicit expertise that give the nation a military or intelligence advantage in space.
The items include satellites that perform purely military or intelligence missions, high-performance remote-sensing satellites, services in support of foreign launch operations for USML- and CCL-designated satellites, and others.
"Implementing the recommendations in this report will facilitate cooperation with U.S. allies and export-control-regime partners," Miller said.
Gregory L. Schulte
James N. Miller