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.