Congress, White House

More obstacles ahead for export control reform?

As noted here earlier this week, the new national space policy did not say that much when it comes to export control reform, and much of it was similar to the 2006 policy. Both policies contained short sections titled “Effective Export Policies”; the 2010 section notes that “space-related items that are determined to be generally available in the global marketplace shall be considered favorably with a view that such exports are usually in the national interests of the United States”. The 2006 policy, by comparison, notes that “space-related exports that are currently available or are planned to be available in the global marketplace shall be considered favorably” but without the language that such exports “are usually in the national interests”.

One reason for the lack of details may be that the administration already laid out its plans for comprehensive export control reform, including an approach dubbed the “four singles” that would consolidate the existing, multiple lists, agencies, and other systems. The administration is continuing to push this plan, including a speech yesterday by National Security Advisor Jim Jones, where he impressed upon a Senate Aerospace Caucus audience the need for reform and current work. This includes creating a tiered control list structure the prioritizes items on current export control lists and makes it easier to add and remove items. “Currently a bracket or screw used in an F-18 is treated the same for control purposes as the aircraft itself,” he noted in his prepared remarks. “I think we can all agree that an advance fighter jet poses a much higher threat than a screw that is merely cut to a specific length.”

However, as DoD Buzz reports, there is Congressional opposition to one element of the reform plan, the creation of a single export licensing agency. Some people on the Hill, according to the report, are worried about repeating the mistakes made when a number of agencies were put together in the Department of Homeland Security, as the creating of a single licensing agency would require bringing together people from existing offices in the Commerce, Defense, and State Departments. “It’s a massive change for a single agency, and rationale has not yet been provided,” a “congressional source” told the publication.

5 comments to More obstacles ahead for export control reform?

  • Doug Lassiter

    It would be interesting to understand how the new space policy, which emphasizes international cooperation, depends on ITAR reform. In many respects, current regulations could stymie innovative plans, or even make them vastly more expensive than they would be otherwise as the project management is engineered to run all the export control traps.

    It would seem that for the new space policy to be actionable, we should be seeing some leadership on ITAR reform. Until the latter happens, the former certainly won’t. In this new space policy, ITAR reform becomes the tall pole.

  • Rhyolite

    For all of the harping on the FY11 HSF budget, ITAR reform is going to have a bigger effect on the success of the US space industry over the long run – especially the commercial parts of it.

  • Doug Lassiter

    I see in SpacePolicyOnline that the administration just announced the other day that a single “Export Control Agency” will be established to oversee export controls. That means a lot, as a good part of the problem has been that Commerce, State, and Defense don’t know how to talk to each other. I also see that the GAO is looking into how other countries avoid getting hamstrung by such regulations as we manage to do. This suggests that the leadership I was looking for is actually starting to appear.

  • vulture4

    Just look at any ad from Thales or Arianespace; they brag about being “ITAR-free”. The motivation for ITAR was to punish Russia (our ISS partner) for supplying nuclear weapon technology to Iran (no evidence this even occurred, as the technology Iran got was from our ally Pakistan). ITAR is, from start to finish, us shooting ourselves in the foot.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “ITAR is, from start to finish, us shooting ourselves in the foot.”

    Exactly. Especially for a space program that needs international cooperation. What incentive is there for ESA, for example, to partner with an agency that is strapped by export controls? We wouldn’t be shooting ourselves in the foot if what ITAR was regulating was really nuclear weapon technology. But when you’re bashing projects because they’re letting a Russian student screw in a mil-spec screw, you know something is wrong.

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