Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) has introduced the Safeguarding United States Satellite Leadership and Security Act of 2011, H.R. 3288, with a bipartisan coalition of original cosponsors including Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL), Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO), Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM). This legislation would restore the President’s ability to determine what export restrictions should apply to commercial satellites and related components. It would also prohibit outright any such exports to China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba.
In 1999, in the wake of revelations about unlicensed technical assistance to China’s space launch program by two U.S. companies, Congress mandated that all U.S. satellites and components were to be subject to licensing as weapons under the United States Munitions List by the Department of State. This stricture applied regardless of whether the proposed export was to China or a NATO ally.
This action was intended to safeguard U.S. satellite technology from reaching China and deny them the ability to launch foreign commercial satellites; in 1999, all foreign commercial satellites had U.S. components, which allowed the U.S. to forbid their launch by Chinese rockets. Now, however, this Congressional action is causing unintended consequences that completely undermine this goal.
U.S. satellite and satellite-component manufacturers are currently in danger of having their products “designed-out” of foreign satellite systems. As bad as this is for U.S. international competitiveness, it also allows “U.S.-free” satellites, to be launched on Chinese launchers. The more launch experience China gets, the more it can improve its related intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are very similar. As China gains experience in launching and improving the reliability of its space launchers, its subsidized and under-priced rockets are also now unfairly competing with U.S. commercial launchers.
“It is time we undo the damage this restriction has unintentionally created for U.S. business, U.S. competitiveness, and U.S. national security,” said Congressman Howard Berman, Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It is critical that we resolve this matter and prevent China from overtaking U.S. satellite manufacturers. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop this common sense solution that will help reinvigorate U.S. international leadership and competitiveness in commercial satellites and technology while fully protecting U.S. national security.”
“Before 1999, the U.S. share of global satellite manufacturing was 75 percent. But over the past 10 years, it has averaged 44 percent because of Congress’ overreaction in shifting commercial satellite export licensing decisions to the highly restrictive munitions list. That action provided a competitive advantage to foreign satellite makers at the expense of American manufacturers and American workers,” said Congressmen Don Manzullo, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. “This legislation will bolster both our national and economic security and give our satellite manufacturers an opportunity to sell again on a level playing field.”
"This legislation helps to remove unnecessary barriers for U.S. exporters and assists an industry that is essential to our national security. At the same time, our legislation prevents the transfer of sensitive technology to countries of concern. Foreign competitors have gained a significant advantage over American satellite manufacturers and component suppliers due to our overly burdensome regulations. It is time we remove these regulations and pave the way for our satellite industry to regain the competitive edge globally and sell to solid U.S. allies,” said Congressman Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The current ITAR restrictions place an unnecessary burden on the commercial satellite manufacturing industry and seriously hamper its ability to compete on the world market,” said Congressman Mike Coffman. “Congress needs to allow our commercial satellite manufacturers to regain their competitive global edge, so we can bring back some of the jobs that have been lost to our overseas competitors.”
“For more than a decade, these restrictions have unintentionally stifled the American space industry. This legislation will help restore America’s competitive edge and allow U.S. companies to sell more of their satellites and components overseas when they do not pose a national security risk. This will help reinvigorate the U.S. commercial satellite industry and create much-needed jobs here at home,” said Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“The law and regulations as they exist today jeopardize our ability to remain competitive in the global satellite market and are doing potential harm to our national security by tilting the playing field toward foreign competitors. This legislation will update antiquated policies so that we not only protect our national security interests but also allow commercial satellite manufacturers to better compete in the worldwide market,” said Congressman Rob Bishop.
“It is long-past time that we correct this classic example of the unintended consequences of government over-regulation,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly. “In trying to prevent sensitive technologies from getting into the wrong hands, U.S. export controls prevented even the most innocuous components from being sold on the international market. Those efforts have led to two undesirable outcomes: It weakened our defense industrial base, particularly the commercial satellite industry; and it spurred industry growth in other countries that were not as concerned as we were about sharing technology with hostile nations. I applaud Ranking Member Berman for his leadership on this important issue.”
“For over a decade, burdensome export controls have prevented New Mexico’s aerospace industry from reaching its full potential,” said Congressman Martin Heinrich. “By removing those barriers we will help create quality jobs without costing taxpayers a single dime. This common-sense change in policy will enable New Mexico’s aerospace companies to compete on a level playing field, broaden their customer base, and help regain America’s high-tech leadership in the world.”