House Bill Would Reform Satellite Export Controls
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and others introduced Nov. 2 legislation to remove commercial satellites and related components from the U.S. Munitions List and “restore the president’s ability to determine what export restrictions should apply” to these goods. The Safeguarding United States Satellite Leadership and Security Act of 2011 (H.R. 3288) would also prohibit exports of commercial satellites and related components to China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Cuba.
A press release from Berman’s office notes that in 1999 Congress mandated that exports of all U.S. satellites and components, regardless of ultimate destination, were to be subject to licensing as defense articles under the USML by the Department of State. This requirement was intended to safeguard U.S. satellite technology from reaching China and deny that country the ability to launch foreign commercial satellites. While this policy made sense in 1999 when all foreign commercial satellites had U.S. components, the press release states, this is no longer the case, and U.S. satellite and satellite component manufacturers are in danger of having their products “designed out” of foreign satellite systems. Another drawback is that China is gaining more experience in launching and improving the reliability of its rockets, which has important military and commercial implications.