- Press Release
- Oct 3, 2022
Rep. Gilman Questions NASA’s Use of Loophole to Continue Payments to Russia
WASHINGTON (October 12) – U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (20th-NY),
Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, made the following
statement today in a hearing in which he questioned a dangerously broad
interpretation that NASA and the Clinton administration have made of the
Iran Nonproliferation Act. He warned that Congress may have to undertake
further legislation and renew its scrutiny of NASA’s practices abroad:
“I called this hearing in order for members of Congress to hear first-hand
about a remarkable legal interpretation of the Iran Nonproliferation Act
that apparently has been adopted by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration. This interpretation threatens to eviscerate this
important new law that was enacted with great fanfare just seven months
“As everyone knows, the problem of proliferation from Russia to Iran
of dangerous weapons technology, especially missile technology, has been
with us for many years now. The Clinton Administration tried
repeatedly in the past to do something about it, but the results were invariably
disappointing. In exasperation, a number of us in Congress felt compelled
“Here in the House, I joined with our distinguished Ranking Democratic
Member, Mr. Gejdenson, and the distinguished Chairman of our Committee
on Science, Mr. Sensenbrenner, to introduce the Iran Nonproliferation Act.
The lead Senate sponsors of the measure included not only the distinguished
Majority Leader, Mr. Lott, but also the man that Vice President Gore has
chosen as his running mate, the junior Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Lieberman.
“The Clinton Administration did not like our legislation. In
fact, they threatened in writing to veto it. But we were not deterred.
The Gilman/Gejdenson/Lott/Lieberman bill passed the House unanimously,
and then it passed the Senate unanimously, and in the end President Clinton
signed it into law on March 14th of this year.
“Since that time, a remarkable thing has happened. The Clinton
Administration has gone about its business as if the law did not exist.
“In essence, the law only requires two things. First, it requires
the President to report periodically to Congress about proliferation to
Iran from other countries. Second, it prohibits NASA from buying
new goods and services from Russia for the International Space Station
until the President determines that all of the approximately 400 entities
under the Russian Aviation and Space Agency have gotten out of the business
of proliferating to Iran.
“The law’s reporting requirement has been utterly disregarded by the
Clinton Administration. The first report was required by law to be
submitted to Congress no later than three months after the date of enactment,
or by June 12th of this year. The second report was required by law
to be submitted to Congress no later than six months after the date of
enactment, or by September 14th. Neither one of these reports has
“The State Department has lots of excuses for disregarding these reporting
deadlines. They’ve been busy doing other things. They’ve had
a hard time figuring out how to write the reports. It’s a lot of
work. Most recently they sent us a letter saying that they are going
to try hard to finish the first report by December 1st orsix months after
it was due – but they’re not making any promises.
“Obviously the Administration has not treated compliance with the reporting
requirements of the Iran Nonproliferation Act as a priority. In fact,
after the bill was enacted they waited for two full months to get around
to asking the CIA to collect the information they would need to write the
first report. That information apparently was not given to the people
who will actually write the report until last month. And when we
asked, we were told that not a single person within the Executive branch
had been put to work full time on complying with this law.
“We have now learned that NASA is considering implementing the law
in a way that will make the State Department’s record look like a model
of compliance. The law is very clear that NASA cannot make what are
called “extraordinary payments in connection with the International Space
Stationî to Russia until the President gives all entities within the Russian
Aviation and Space Agency have a clean bill of health on proliferation
to Iran. The President cannot even consider doing that now because
the State Department has not written any of the required reports about
what these entities are doing.
“There is, however, an exception in the law for crew safety.
If the President notifies Congress in writing that an otherwise prohibited
purchase from Russia is “necessary to prevent the imminent loss of life
by or grievous injury to individuals aboard the International Space Station,î
that purchase may be made notwithstanding the law’s prohibitions.
“This exception was inserted into the legislation by our own Dana Rohrabacher
during the Science Committee’s mark-up of the bill. Hopefully in
a few minutes Mr. Rohrabacher will be able to describe to us his intentions
in writing this exception. My own understanding was always that this
was an exception that was to be available to NASA in emergency situations
“NASA, however, has come up with its own interpretation of what Mr.
Rohrabacher intended, which is considerably broader than an exception just
for emergency circumstances. NASA apparently believes that the purchase
of anything that arguably enhances safety will fit within this exception.
“If NASA’s interpretation is allowed to stand, I fear that virtually
nothing will be left of the law’s prohibition on extraordinary payments
in connection with the International Space Station. I had hoped that
we in Congress had concluded our work in this area when we enacted the
Iran Nonproliferation Act earlier this year, but, regrettably, NASA’s present
course may leave us with no choice but to legislate again on this issue.
“If we are forced to do that, we may also have to address some new
areas of concern that are now under investigation by the NASA Inspector
General, such as NASA’s subsidization of other entities in Russia that
have a history of producing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.
“We are fortunate today to have two distinguished witnesses from the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Edward A. Frankle
is NASA’s General Counsel. He has held that job since 1988, and served
previously as NASA’s Deputy General Counsel. A graduate of
the Georgetown University Law Center, he also has worked as a lawyer at
the Selective Service System and the Department of the Navy. Mr.
Frankle is joined by W. Michael Hawes, NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator
for Space Flight Development. Mr. Hawes currently is responsible
for directing U.S. participation in the International Space Station project.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the George Washington University,
he has spent most of his career in a variety of positions with NASA.
“Gentlemen, we welcome you and look forward to hearing your explanation
of how NASA intends to comply with the Iran Nonproliferation Act.î
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