Congress Gives Final Approval to Bennet's Satellite Export Reforms

Measure Sent to President's Desk as Part of Defense Authorization Bill

Congress today gave final approval to the Defense Authorization Bill, which includes a provision based upon a bill introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to reduce export restrictions on certain satellites and components not deemed highly sensitive. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“Colorado is a national hub for the space industry, and these reforms to our satellite export controls will allow businesses to expand their operations and invest in new technologies that will help grow our state’s economy,” Bennet said. “Businesses in Colorado and across the country will be better positioned to compete globally while still protecting our national security interests.”

“For years, we have watched the U.S. lose ground against global competitors because of the largely unintentional consequences of onerous regulations on space technology for export,” said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. “Now, thanks to the hard work of a number of individuals – most especially Senator Michael Bennet – our nation can once again begin to vigorously compete in an industry we helped invent.”

“This new reform will be a tremendous gain for Colorado,” stated Accelerate Colorado President, Bryan Blakely. “The direct impact on jobs and commerce will be a huge win for our state.”

“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 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 worked 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.