Press Release

AIP FYI # 111: Boehlert, Hall Letter on Regulation of Research Satellites

By SpaceRef Editor
August 31, 2001
Filed under ,

As described in FYI #110, the regulation of research satellites
under the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms
Regulations (ITAR) has generated concern within the scientific
community and among Members of Congress. In a July 20 letter to
President Bush, the House Science Committee’s Chairman and its
Ranking Democratic Member, Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ralph
Hall (D-TX), call for clarification and reaffirmation that
scientific satellites fall under a Reagan-era directive which
exempted fundamental research from ITAR provisions. The text of
the letter follows:

“Dear Mr. President:

“We are writing to you because of our concern over one of the
unintended impacts of the transfer of satellite licensing from
the Department of Commerce to the Department of State two years
ago. We believe that, with your assistance, correction of the
situation should be relatively easy to accomplish.

“As you know, the nation has had a distinguished record of
achievement in the scientific exploration of space since the dawn
of the Space Age over forty years ago. The joint efforts of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, America’s
universities, industry, and international scientific
collaborators have led to an enormous advance in our knowledge of
the universe. Those research activities have also contributed
greatly to the education of generations of American scientists
and engineers, as well as delivering technological spinoffs that
have benefitted the American taxpayers.

“By its nature, fundamental scientific research is best
accomplished in an environment of openness that allows the
participation of the best scientific minds in the world. In the
mid-1980s, the Reagan Administration addressed the issue of how
best to balance the need for openness in international scientific
collaboration with the need to ensure that national security is
protected. The result was a policy consensus that fundamental
research should be exempt from the provisions of the
International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and that
legitimate national security concerns related to sensitive
technologies employed in the research would best be addressed by
classification. As part of that consensus, scientific satellites
were not included on the Munitions List. President Reagan
codified the essence of those policies in 1985 in National Security Decision Directive NSDD-189.

“Mr. President, the approach developed by the Reagan
Administration served the nation well over the following decade
and a half. We are aware of no national security breaches
resulting from collaborative space science research activities
during that period. However, a system that has worked well is in
the process of unraveling due to confusion about what the rules
should be from this point forward, and conflicting signals about
how those rules would be implemented. As a result, the highly
successful framework for collaboration between NASA, industry,
and the universities in the conduct of space research is in

“We thus would respectfully request that you use your authority
expeditiously to clarify the situation by reiterating the policy
consensus reached during the Reagan Administration, namely that
fundamental research shall remain exempt from the provisions of
the ITAR and scientific satellites shall not be part of the
Munitions List. Such a clarification would remove the cloud of
confusion and uncertainty that currently overhangs our nation’s
space science research enterprise.”


Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094


SpaceRef staff editor.