Rules Drafted for Dropping Satellite Gear from Export List

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The U.S. State Department on May 23 issued draft rules for removing 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.

Satellite executives have long pushed for the changes to the rules in order to remove a barrier that prevents them from selling more of their goods overseas. The draft was largely identical to what satellite officials had been expecting.

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 Satellite Industry Association] is pleased that the Administration has moved quickly to right-size the rules that govern exports of satellites and their parts and components, just a few months after Congress restored their authority to do so,” Patricia Cooper, SIA president, said in a written statement. “We view sensible and effective export controls as a vital tool to enhance our nation’s space industrial base and encourage the satellite sector’s ongoing leadership in innovation and investment.”

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.

The new rules were expected to 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, Kevin Wolf, assistant U.S. secretary of commerce for export administration, said in March. 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.

Jim Miller, acting undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a statement in March that “the United States can safely modify the export controls placed on satellites and related component technology that are widely available, while maintaining firm control on systems and technologies deemed truly critical to national security.”

If everything goes as planned and pending public comment this 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.