Bennet Introduces Bill to Address Outdated Regulations That Stifle American Satellite Exports

Bill Provides Administration with Ability to Tailor Satellite Export Controls, Prohibits Sales to Certain Countries

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill to give the Administration the ability to tailor export restrictions on certain less sensitive satellites. The bill is based on recommendations from a joint Department of Defense and Department of State report on United States export controls in the satellite industry.

“The report released by the Administration highlights how our outdated export controls undermine our nation’s ability to compete and innovate in the international marketplace,” said Bennet. “It shows that our space export control policies have put American businesses at a disadvantage, and countries that do not share our interests are benefitting. This bill will ensure that our nation’s export controls will treat satellites and their components in a manner that is consistent with other items that serve both a military and a commercial purpose.

“Comtech AeroAstro, Inc. has been a staunch proponent of ITAR and export control reform and is highly encouraged by the Safeguarding United States Leadership and Security Act of 2012, a bill introduced Tuesday by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) that would reform the U.S. framework for satellite export controls,” stated Stanley O. Kennedy, Jr., Senior Vice President & General Manager Commercial, Civil, International Programs at Comtech AeroAstro located in Littleton.  “This bill would reform satellite export controls and allow the U.S. Space industrial base to remain competitive in world markets while protecting U.S. security and developing our next generation of scientists and engineers.”

"Reforming the ITAR process and allowing U.S. satellite and satellite component manufacturers to compete on a level field with foreign sources is vital for the growth and maintenance of the U.S. industrial base,” said Eric Anderson, president & COO of SEAKR Engineering based in Centennial. “SEAKR Engineering has lost market share to foreign competition due to the previous restrictions and reform is long overdue and welcome."

Under current law, the Administration does not have authority to determine the appropriate export controls for satellites and space-related items. They are controlled as defense articles under International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR), even if they have civilian applications and are available commercially abroad. This puts U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in the global market while foreign competitors continue to make technological advancements.

The report, which was required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010, recommends that the Administration be granted authority to determine the appropriate export control status of satellites and other space-related items. The report is the result of an interagency process that includes input from the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Commerce.

By placing non-sensitive satellites under the control of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), instead of ITAR, American manufacturers would be able to compete abroad and reinvigorate our space industrial base.

Specifically, the Safeguarding United States Satellite Leadership and Security Act of 2012 would:

  • Give the Administration the discretion to transfer certain less sensitive satellites and satellite components from the more restrictive United States Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. These items would therefore be regulated in a manner consistent with other items that could serve both a commercial and military purpose.
  • Prohibit the transfer of any satellite or related item (either directly or indirectly) to China, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, or any state sponsor of terrorism identified under the Export Administration Act.