House bill would boost satellite manufacturing
U.S. Reps. Don Manzullo (R-IL) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and seven other colleagues have introduced bipartisan legislation that would lift excessive export controls from the U.S. manufacturers of commercial satellites and components so they can sell more of their products overseas and create more American jobs.
The Safeguarding United States Satellite Leadership and Security Act of 2011 (H.R. 3288) would restore the President’s ability to determine what export restrictions should apply to commercial satellites and related components. It would also prohibit any such exports to China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba. The legislation is part of Manzullo’s American Jobs Agenda.
In 1999, in the wake of revelations that two American companies provided unlicensed technical assistance to China’s space launch program, Congress mandated that all U.S. satellites and components be licensed as weapons under the United States Munitions List (USML) by the Department of State, severely hampering exports of American-made commercial satellites even to our closest allies. This action was intended to safeguard U.S. satellite technology from reaching China and deny them the ability to launch foreign commercial satellites; in 1999, all foreign commercial satellites had U.S. components, which allowed the U.S. to forbid their launch by Chinese rockets.
Now, however, this Congressional action is causing unintended consequences that completely undermine this goal. U.S. satellite and satellite-component manufacturers are currently in danger of having their products “designed-out” of foreign satellite systems. This harms U.S. international competitiveness because current U.S. satellite export control policy provides a perverse incentive to encourage the launch of “U.S.-free” satellites outside of the U.S. to avoid the hassle of dealing with the USML. There are several other nations that manufacture commercial satellites and they all do not have similar export restraints.
“Before 1999, the U.S. share of global satellite manufacturing was 75%. But over the past 10 years, it has averaged 44% because of Congress’ overreaction in shifting commercial satellite export licensing decisions to the highly restrictive munitions list. That action provided a competitive advantage to foreign satellite makers at the expense of American manufacturers and American workers,” said Manzullo, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. “This legislation provides a balance that will bolster both our national and economic security and give our satellite manufacturers an opportunity to sell again on a level playing field.”