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Bigelow's Mike Gold Warns Don't Jump the Gun on ITAR Changes

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Mar-2013
Updated: 19-Mar-2013 06:26 PM

Mike Gold warned his space industry colleagues today not to jump the gun by assuming that satellite export control reforms already are in place.  Congress passed a law that will loosen satellite export controls, but it will be quite some time before new regulations are in place and now would be the worst time for anyone to make a misstep, he said.

Gold is the Director of DC Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace and a long time champion of reforming export controls for commercial satellites, which are currently governed by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  After a decade-long effort, Congress finally passed export control reform at the end of the 112th Congress in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  During a panel session at Satellite 2013 today, key participants in that effort from Congress, the Administration, and industry shared stories of what it took to reach this point and the many steps yet to be taken.

Tony Dearth of the State Department and Kevin Wolf of the Commerce Department laid out the complicated and time-consuming regulatory process that is now underway to actually move items off of the State Department's strict ITAR-controlled U.S. Munitions List (USML) and onto the Commerce Department's more flexible Commerce Control List (CCL).  They expressed hope that the rulemaking process would be completed in the October-November time frame, followed by a 180-day waiting period for the new rule to go into effect to give industry time to adjust its own processes.

The message from Gold, who brought a half bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion -- joking that he would have brought a full bottle except for sequestration -- was that the reforms have not gone into effect yet.  He worries that smaller companies, in particular, may simply be reading headlines that the law passed and do not realize how much more is left to be done.    Consequently, someone may inadvertently violate the existing regulations, which remain in effect, and undo all the gains especially if it involves China.  

Satellite exports to China are not permitted under the current export control regime and that prohibition will remain in effect in the new regime.  China was "the third rail" in the discussions and any "giant mistake or blunder...particularly with regard to China ... could derail this thing yet," Gold stressed.

He particularly thanked David Fite of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a key figure in achieving what Gold called a "miracle."  Fite was also on today's panel and recounted the numerous twists and turns in Congress over the past decade that eventually led to success.  Panel moderator Patricia Cooper, President of the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), was also singled out for praise (and was presented with the champagne).

The key message from Gold, though, was "Don't think that because the NDAA passed that it's over."  Passing the law was "an incredible victory" but the "fight isn't over yet." 

SIA and the Aerospace Industries Association issued a fact sheet explaining what lies ahead.


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