Bennet Provisions to Reform Satellite Exports Included in Final Defense Authorization Bill

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

The Senate and House Armed Services Committees unveiled the final version of the Defense Authorization bill, called a conference report, which includes provisions based upon a bill introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to give the Administration the ability to tailor export restrictions on certain satellites and components not deemed highly sensitive.

“Colorado businesses and other companies across the country have been operating at a disadvantage due to these policies,” Bennet said. “These reforms will give our businesses a chance to compete globally while still protecting our national security interests. Colorado is a national hub for the space industry, and this will help satellite companies grow their businesses and the state’s economy.”

“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.”

“Colorado is a national hub for the satellite industry. Our companies are at the forefront of developing next generation satellite systems, and have a deep technical expertise and an inherent global competitive edge,” stated Vicky Lea with the Colorado Space Coalition. “Satellite export control reform is a critical issue to the nation’s space industrial base. The proposed changes in the NDAA will enable our companies to capitalize on their expertise, increasing high-skilled jobs and economic impact in Colorado.”

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.

Bennet introduced a bill in May to 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. 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 released in March.

Bennet has been working with the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee on his legislation and filed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that contained such export control reforms. In a letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), chairman and ranking member of the committee, Bennet requested that his amendment be included in the final conference report.