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With the U.S. space industry facing major funding reductions from its core customer – the federal government– there is one potential area for real improvement that could help augment the space industrial base during a budget downturn: satellite export reform.
AIA’s new paper, Competing for Space: Satellite Export Policy and U.S. National Security, outlines the national security risks posed by draconian export controls and the absence of export-focused trade policies on the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. space sector. Prepared by AIA’s Space and International Councils, the report makes recommendations and includes findings from an AIA survey that provides new insight regarding the impact of current export restrictions on space industry manufacturers of all sizes. A multitude of other studies have previously provided findings and recommendations on ways to improve the U.S. space industry’s competitiveness. In particular, a February 2008 study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that current export control policies adversely impact U.S. firms—especially in the second and third tiers—and their ability to compete for foreign space business.
Today, the call for reform should be urgent. With federal space budgets under pressure and satellite export policies that remain counterproductive, U.S. industry—including many small to medium-sized businesses—may be forced to reduce or eliminate involvement in the space sector. This scenario, described in the 2010 AIA report Tipping Point, could lead to a devastating loss of space capabilities essential to national security. While some commercial satellite prime contractors have found ways to mitigate the impact of current policies, lower tier suppliers remain threatened, along with the overall competitiveness of the U.S. space industry.
Leaders from the Defense Department and Capitol Hill are working to update the set of policies and controls that currently limit satellite and component sales to even close U.S. allies. An interim DoD and interagency report released late last year suggested commercial communications satellites and other non-sensitive technologies could be exported without risk to U.S. national security under a modernized export control system. A full version of this report, expected in the coming months, has been sought by satellite export reform proponents to help provide the Legislative Branch the clarity needed to update existing law.
As small businesses and suppliers respond to reductions in Defense Department and other federal agency budgets by closing their doors, AIA is concerned that a weakened U.S. space industrial base may be unable to meet national security needs or sustain its technological edge against international competitors. The goal of Competing for Space: Satellite Export Policy and U.S. National Security is to build urgency among policymakers around the need for updated export policies that will strengthen the U.S. space industrial base and enhance national security.
AIA Source: mike.conschafter[at]aia-aerospace.org