Spacelift Washington: Satellite Trade, Export Reform Face Shrinking Congressional Calendar

By frank_sietzen
July 18, 2001
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Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washington Archive

WASHINGTON – Efforts to reform U.S. satellite and high technology exports face a crowded Congressional calendar as the U.S. House and Senate head towards a month-long summer recess and what looks like a looming budget battle when lawmakers return September 4th.

H.R. 1707 (Satellite Trade and Security Act of 2001), a bill to return jurisdictional control over satellite exports to the U.S. Commerce Department, has gained nearly two dozen co-sponsors but faces a lack of support in the U.S. Senate, according to Rep. Howard Berman. Berman, a California Democrat, spoke at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday in Washington. Berman, one of the co-sponsors of H.R. 1707 said that attaching his proposed legislation to the Export Authorization Act (EAA) – S. 149 now pending in the Senate was one possibility. “We might be willing to see that”, Berman told Spacelift Washington.

However, S. 149 is also facing troubles as the clock winds down on this year’s congressional session. S. 149 cleared the Senate Banking Committee last year but failed to make it to the floor thanks to a truncated election year calendar. Thus far this year, the bill has yet to make it to the Senate floor again, although with wide bipartisan support and growing concern over the state of U.S. export policy and procedures such action is believed likely before the end-of-the-year recess that looms in the fall.

Berman also said that while the Defense Department has not taken a position on shifting export controls back to the Department of Commerce, a review of his bill by DoD is underway. “We will be given a review and a report soon” from Defense policy analysts in the Pentagon, Berman said Wednesday.

H.R. 1707, with initial co-sponsorship by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), seeks to reverse 1998 Congressional action that stripped satellite export authority from the Department of Commerce and moved it to the State Department. Since then, tighter State Department licensing reviews have slowed space exports, which some studies suggest have fallen off by as much as 40 percent or more.

The State Department was also seen as slow to ramp up to address the staggering number of export license filings. The legislation that transferred the licensing authority also did not treat exports to U.S. allies and NATO members any different than exports to other states, a fact that subsequent Congresses have attempted to remedy as well. Industry associations say the overall result of the export changes of the past three years has been to damage the once booming U.S. commercial space industry and drive satellite builders in other countries into seeking non-U.S. suppliers to avoid the U.S. export bottlenecks.

Berman’s bill and the EAA, introduced by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) may restore stability to the export situation-assuming that one or both bills actually pass the Congress and get signed into law. A signing seems possible, given that President George W. Bush supported Enzi’s bill during the 2000 Presidential campaign. Berman’s bill has been supported by an unusually wide range of U.S. space advocacy groups, which have been often characterized by lack of a common agenda.

SPACELIFT WASHINGTON © 2001 by Aerospace FYI Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction allowed with permission. The information contained herein are the authors own and are not affiliated with any other society, organization, or institution. Publication does not constitute endorsement of either editorial content or sponsoring web site.
Have information about space transportation? Email the editor at sietzen@erols.com