During the House Committee on Science and Technology’s hearings on export reforms on Wednesday, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued an attack on Eutelsat for its decision to launch its communications satellites on Chinese Long March rockets. This is something that is forbidden to American satellite owners under export laws.
â€œEveryone agrees ITAR reform needs to happen. We need to make sure that our hi tech exports arenâ€™t strangled by regulations. On the other hand, we need to remain vigilant that our advanced technology doesnâ€™t end up in the hands of nations who proliferate weapons of mass destruction. We know exactly who these nations are, and we must make absolutely sure that whatever changes we enact to ITAR and other export regulations, that these scofflaw and rogue nations are barred from receiving our high tech systems.
â€œChief among them is the Peoples Republic of China. Ten years ago, the Cox Report clearly demonstrated that U.S. technology transfers to the Peoples Republic of China helped to improve and enhance the efficiency of Chinaâ€™s arsenal of missiles that were aimed at us. As a consequence, we passed the Strom Thurmond Act, which established the requirement that before any satellite technology could be exported to China, the President of the United States had to first certify to Congress that the tech transfer was not inimical to our national security or our domestic launch or satellite industries. Since the Strom Thurmond Act became law 10 years ago, not a single such certification has been made by any administration, and as a consequence no Western satellite payload has flown on a Chinese rocket.
â€œBut the resolve of the Obama Administration is now being tested in this area. Just as our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was visiting the Peoples Republic of China, European satellite operator Eutelsat was a cutting a deal with Beijing for a launch on a Long March rocket. Incidentally, Eutelsat sells tens of millions of dollars worth of satellite services to the U.S. Government through DISA contracts. Clearly, this is the beginning of a game of chicken between Eutelsat and the Obama administration. If the Obama administration does nothing, the message is clearâ€”transferring technology to proliferators of weapons of mass destruction like the Peoples Republic of China is a perfectly acceptable business model.
â€œSurely we can make sensible changes to ITAR and other export regulations, but we must not go so far as to make them at the expense of our national security. Let us reward our friends with openness in trade; and conversely let us be as single-minded as possible in stopping items from the United States Munitions Listâ€”like Eutelsat payloads– from falling into the hands of the Peoples Republic of China and other proliferators.
Looks like we might be headed for quite a battle over ITAR reforms, which many in high tech industries believe the U.S. desperately needs because of sliding competitiveness. It will be interesting to see where all the chips land.