Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 21, 2012

At last moment, Senate, House approve bill changing regulations

We promised to move this to Promise Kept if the lame-duck Congress approved new regulations governing the export of aerospace technology. And at nearly the last minute of the 2012 session, lawmakers acted.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the Senate approved the House-Senate conference version of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310), which includes a provision easing export controls for satellites. The Senate's approval -- on an 81-14 vote -- followed House passage of the same bill the previous evening by a 315-107 margin.

To recap, American technology companies — especially aerospace manufacturers — have long chafed under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. These rules, administered by the State Department, are designed to prevent critical defense-related technologies from falling into the wrong hands. Under ITAR, technologies with military value may not be exported without a license from the State Department. The Commerce Department oversees, under somewhat looser controls, export of "dual-use" technologies that have both military and civilian applications.
       
ITAR makes it hard for U.S. aerospace companies to sell technologies such as satellites to foreign customers, which significantly reduces the size of their potential markets.
       
Last year, the Defense Department and State Department issued a report on whether it was advisable to make changes to the law. They concluded that communications satellites without classified components and remote-sensing satellites below a certain performance standard are not unique to the United States and aren't critical to national security. As a result, the report concluded, control could be safely shifted from the State Department to the Commerce Department.
       
The last-minute congressional action puts on the books a revised policy that tracks what the report recommended. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson December 20, 2012

Provisions will have to wait until next year

When we last checked Barack Obama's promise to review the regulations that govern the export of aerospace technology, the House had passed language to do so and the Senate was poised to pass it as well. But the drawn-out battle over the fiscal cliff has kept the Senate from taking up the measure.
   
To recap, American technology companies — especially aerospace manufacturers — have long chafed under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. These rules, administered by the State Department, are designed to prevent  critical defense-related technologies from falling into the wrong hands. Under ITAR, technologies with military value may not be exported without a license from the State Department. The Commerce Department oversees, under somewhat looser controls, export of "dual-use" technologies that have both military and civilian applications.
   
ITAR makes it hard for U.S. aerospace companies to sell technologies such as satellites to foreign customers, which significantly reduces the size of their potential markets.
   
Last year, the Defense Department and State Department issued a report on whether it was advisable to make changes to the law. They concluded that communications satellites without classified components and remote-sensing satellites below a certain performance standard are not unique to the U.S. and aren't critical to national security. As a result, the report concluded, control could be safely shifted from the State Department to the Commerce Department.
   
In a May 17, 2012, voice vote, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to implement the report's recommendations.
   
So the debate turned to the Senate. In May, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced a bill to implement the report's recommendations. Observers told PolitiFact that the bill could be included as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill.

But time is slipping away to take up the defense bill. If nothing is passed during the lame-duck session, a new bill will have to be introduced after the new Congress is sworn in. Because the heavy lifting on the policy side is now complete, the main obstacles appear to be procedural rather than substantive. If the new policy is enacted, we'll move this to Promise Kept, but for now, the administration's efforts earn it a Compromise.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson July 20, 2012

House tees up export control measure for Senate consideration

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to review the regulations that govern the export of aerospace technology.

For years, American technology companies — especially aerospace manufacturers — have chafed under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. These rules, administered by the State Department, stem from the 1968 Arms Export Control Act and are designed to prevent  critical defense-related technologies from falling into the wrong hands. Under ITAR, technologies with military value may not be exported without a license from the State Department. The Commerce Department oversees, under somewhat looser controls, export of "dual-use" technologies that have both military and civilian applications.

ITAR makes it hard for U.S. aerospace companies to sell technologies such as satellites to foreign customers. This significantly reduces the size of their potential markets.

Last year, the Defense Department and State Department issued a report on whether it was advisable to make changes to the law. They concluded that communications satellites without classified components and remote-sensing satellites below a certain performance standard are not unique to the U.S. and aren"t critical to national security. As a result, the report concluded, control could be safely shifted from the State Department to the Commerce Department.

In a May 17, 2012, voice vote, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to implement the report"s recommendations.

The ball is now in the Senate"s court. In May, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced a bill to implement the report"s recommendations. Observers predict that the bill could be included as an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill. This "must-pass” measure is now second in line for consideration in the Senate after a cybersecurity bill, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

If the Senate passes the measure, and if, as expected, Obama signs it, we"ll rate it a Promise Kept. But until that happens, we"re keeping this one In the Works.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson August 26, 2009

Obama starts review of ITAR export controls

For years, American technology companies — especially aerospace manufacturers — have chafed under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. These rules, administered by the State Department, stem from the 1968 Arms Export Control Act and are designed to prevent  critical defense-related technologies from falling into the wrong hands. Under ITAR, technologies with military value may not be exported without a license from the State Department. The Commerce Department oversees, under somewhat looser controls, export of "dual-use" technologies that have both military and civilian applications.

ITAR makes it hard for U.S. aerospace companies to sell technologies such as satellites to foreign customers. This significantly reduces the size of their potential markets.

During the campaign, Barack Obama promised to review the restrictions and revise the process so that U.S. contractors could compete in the international market.

On Aug. 13, 2009, the White House announced that while the president was extending authority for the Commerce Department to regulate the exports, he also was directing the National Security Council and the National Economic Council to "launch a broad-based interagency process for reviewing the overall U.S. export control system, including both the dual-use and defense trade processes. The aim of the review is to consider reforms to the system to enhance the national security, foreign policy, and economic security interests of the United States. The U.S. has one of the most robust export control systems in the world. But, it is rooted in the Cold War era of over 50 years ago and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape."

The aerospace industry praised the president's move. "This is a very welcome development," said Aerospace Industries Association president and CEO Marion Blakey. "AIA has been a long-standing proponent of a more predictable, efficient and transparent U.S. export control system. ... The economic and security challenges our country faces continue to grow more complex, and we must have a modern export control system that protects U.S. technology while allowing us to cooperate and trade with our close allies and partners."

There's no guarantee what the NSC and the NEC will recommend once they begin wading into the issue. In fact, one part of Obama's promise — directing revisions to the licensing process under export controls — was not directly addressed by the White House statement. For that reason, we are classifying this promise as In the Works.

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