WASHINGTON, DC, May 02, 2002

Increasing global competitiveness in satellite technology and counterproductive regulations threaten U.S military superiority in space, according to a new CSIS report. In order for the United States to maintain information dominance through satellites for remote sensing, intelligence, communication and navigation, the U.S. government should ease export control restrictions to allow greater U.S. participation in the global satellite market.

The study, Preserving America’s Advantage in Satellite Technology (executive summary), examines the nature and quality of commercial satellite services available on the global market; and the failure and costs of U.S. efforts to prevent potential opponents from gaining access to satellite services by restricting the participation of U.S. firms in the marketplace. The report, written by a ten-member panel of policy experts and former government officials, offers recommendations to enhance the viability of the U.S. satellite industry, while protecting national security

“In an era of fierce competition and overcapacity in satellite manufacturing, supportive government policies and a positive regulatory environment will be a key determinant for a healthy space industry. In seeking superior space capability, the United States has not paid enough attention to its commercial industrial base or to the commercial satellite market, which is where most of the nations of the world concentrate their satellite activities,” the report states. “Broad U.S. technology transfer restrictions are counterproductive, as they reduce the commercial sales that are the key to sustaining the U.S. satellite industrial base. The effect of denying U.S. satellites, components, and technology to the global market has been to encourage other nations to develop non-U.S. sources of supply.”

This would ensure that U.S. firms benefit from the larger forces shaping the global market, such as the increasing international demand for satellite services in communication, navigation, and remote sensing, and the emerging global market for commercial satellite services. Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Recognize the progress other countries have made in the commercial satellite market, as producers and consumers. The growth of commercial space activities, where private entities or governments operate satellites and sell satellites on a global commercial market, has changed the nature of national security.
  • Streamline irrelevant technology transfer restrictions. Restrictions on satellite technology transfers have weakened U.S. security in the new global economic and security environment.
  • Prepare U.S. forces for conflict with opponents who take advantage of commercial satellite services, but recognize that the denial of satellite services is potentially a double-edged sword and may pose knotty problems for military planners.
  • Develop new ways to reinforce the commercial space sector. Utilize supportive regulatory structures and “outsource” communications and remote sensing requirements to U.S. companies.
  • Create a coherent organization for government involvement in space activities. The current civil, military, and regulatory “stovepipes” must be replaced with a coherent structure that can integrate commercial, military, and intelligence requirements.

“Having U.S. firms in the market supplying state-of-the-art technology will beat foreign competition and provide the most effective means of shaping the international commercial satellite market while protecting national security,” said James Lewis, director of the CSIS Technology Program.

CSIS is an independent, nonpartisan public policy organization.

Contact: Mark Schoeff Jr. 202-775-3242 (mschoeff@csis.org); James Lewis 202-775-3247