The House is debating this evening amendments to HR 1540, the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization act. Tucked away in the list of over 150 amendments under consideration is one submitted by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to provide for export control reform for satellites. The amendment, similar to standalone legislation introduced earlier this month by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), would give the president the authority to remove satellites and related components from the US Munitions List (USML), thus removing them from the more restrictive ITAR export control regime, although it would still ban their export to China (as well as a handful of other countries, including North Korea and Venezuela, or any designated “state sponsor” of terrorism.)
However, when Rohrabacher took the floor at around 9:45 pm Wednesday, the the House took up his amendment, he announced that he planned on withdrawing it. After going through the background of the amendment and its need, he yielded to Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). McKeon explained that while he supported the general thruster of the amendment, he wanted to wait until the Defense Department completed the so-called “Section 1248″ report assessing the impact of removing satellites and related components from the USML on national security. A draft version of that report was delivered to Congress earlier this month, but a final version is not expected until later this year.
“I am committed to working with the gentleman from California [Rohrabacher] and my ranking member to review our nation’s satellite export control policies and identify policy recommendations that would facilitate greater export opportunities for our aerospace companies while also national security,” McKeon said.
“Out of respect for the judgement of the chairman” and his desire to receive and study the final version of the Section 1248 report, “I am willing to withdraw my amendment,” Rohrabacher said.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), HASC ranking member, said he supported Rohrabacher’s amendment and would have voted for it had it not been withdrawn, arguing that there’s no need to wait for additional studies on the subject. “Inaction is not the safe and correct course here,” he said. “We have the evidence we need. I believe we need to go forward.”
Earlier in the day, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) expressed support for Rohrabacher’s amendment in a joint statement. “If passed, this amendment would enhance U.S. national security and support American jobs and competitiveness. SIA and AIA strongly support the passage of this amendment,” they stated. That amendment will have to wait for another time, though.