Draft Satellite Export Regulations Expected in April

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WASHINGTON — U.S. government officials expect to complete in April a draft version of regulations that will remove some satellite hardware and technology from the U.S. Munitions List, a registry of militarily sensitive technologies whose exports are tightly controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Those items that are taken off the list will fall under the export regulatory jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which industry officials expect will ease the licensing process. The regulations are being drafted following the passage of legislation late last year that gives the U.S. president the authority to determine licensing jurisdiction for space-related items.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 repeals a 1999 law that placed all space-related hardware and services, regardless of sophistication or availability, on the Munitions List. Kevin Wolf, assistant U.S. secretary of commerce for export administration, described the timetable and a few details of the new rules at a panel discussion March 19 at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington.

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The rule will be “fundamentally, essentially the same changes” as described in the so-called 1248 report released in April 2012 by the U.S. Defense and State departments, Wolf said. That report described a number of items that officials with those agencies believe could be placed on the Commerce Department’s Commerce Control List without harming national security.

If everything goes as planned and pending public comment this spring and summer, the new regulations for Category 15 items, which include space systems and equipment, could be completed during the fourth quarter of this year, Wolf said.

Once the rules are approved, there likely would be a 180-day waiting period before they go into effect.