After fighting for over a decade to reform an export control regime that they felt was hurting the ability of American companies to compete in an increasingly global market, the space industry got a major victory today as reform language was included in the final version of the defense authorization bill by House and Senate conferees. From the summary of the conference report by the Democratic caucus of the House Armed Services Committee:
Reforms satellite export control by repealing Section 1513(a) of the Strom Thurmond NDAA for FY99, which essentially restores the authority of the President to move satellites and related items from the United States Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. The provisions would prohibit the export, re-export of such items to certain countries and provides for interagency reviews and reporting requirements in order to ensure accountability with respect to the export of satellites and related items. The provisions would maintain the existing security and monitoring provisions of the Strom Thurmond Act.
Note that this doesn’t mean that satellites and related components will immediately come off the US Munitions List (USML), and thus be outside the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Instead, there will be a review process by the administration, which will determine what items it will seek to move off the USML, and then go through a Congressional notification process. (There may be other steps required as well, depending on the specific language of the conference report.) However, simply restoring to the president the ability to make those determinations, which had been removed by the 1999 defense authorization act, is a significant victory for advocates of export control reform and the broader domestic space industry.