Given how heated a topic like export control reform can be, yesterday was almost an anticlimax. At the beginning of debate on HR 4310, the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2013, the House approved by voice vote a group of amendements deemed sufficiently non-controversial that they could be enacted without individual debate on each. Included in that group of amendments was one that would give the President authority to take satellites and related components off the US Munitions List, although still requiring Congressional consent and with restrictions on the export of such items to China and several other nations.
The passage of the amendment was celebrated by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Treating commercial satellites and components as if they were lethal weapons, regardless of whether they’re going to friend or foe, has gravely harmed American space manufacturers,” he said in a statement. “We depend on these manufacturers for our own critical defense needs; if onerous restrictions prevent them from competing in the international marketplace, then they can’t innovate and ultimately cannot survive.”
It’s not the first time that export control reform has made it through the House: the House included similar language in its State Department authorization act in 2009. That legislation died in the Senate, though. A companion provision (either in the Senate’s version of the defense authorization bill, in another bill, or as a standalone piece of legislation) has yet to be introduced.
Also included in that block of amendments passed on a voice vote was one introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) regarding cooperation on spaceport infrastructure, allowing the DOD to work with and accept funding from outside organizations to improve facilities at federal ranges. “Rolling back the red tape and enabling Defense Department, Space Florida, and the commercial sector to collaborate and work together is just a common sense way to make America more competitive,” Posey said in a statement Thursday.