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Space The Military United States Technology

Arms Regulations Damaging US Space Industry 184 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the law-of-unintended-consequences dept.
athe!st writes "International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are a major headache for companies trying to put their satellites into space, so much so that some companies are using 'ITAR-free' (aka free of US technology) as a selling point. The European Space Agency is trying to reduce its dependence on ITAR components, and the regulations are also threatening the nascent space tourism industry."
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Arms Regulations Damaging US Space Industry

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  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:05PM (#33534768) Homepage Journal

    ITAR covers such things as software, documentation for software and even a software engineer talking to someone about said software, even if what the engineer is saying is freely available in public documentation. I work at a place where we have to review ITAR and EAR (Export Administration Regulations) policies every year and at the end of the presentation they make it clear just about anything could be an ITAR violation.

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:13PM (#33534880) Homepage Journal

    There are indeed reasons why technology exports are restricted. I just can't think of any, right now.

    Past restrictions included banning the Beowulf clustering technology (which caused such an uproar that the code was smuggled into Canada, and ITAR-free alternatives were developed such as MOSIX and Kerrighd) and the banning of crypto in excess of 40 bits (which, combined with RSA patents, led to the International PGP versions, but which had a severe impact on nascent e-Commerce).

    During that same time, a New Zealand engineer developed a home-made cruise missile using off-the-shelf parts, a Scottish rocket club built a flying waverider airframe, the Swedish navy were designing stealth ships that were invisible to Radar and nuclear weapons research continued unabated in the Indian subcontinent.

    In more recent times, the entire schematics for the Raptor were exported to Iran (where they were published online) because those dealing with actual secrets were not bothering with elementary containment procedures in order to make a fast buck off eBay.

    So, yes, I can believe that ITAR has value and importance. What I cannot believe is that the things that get caught in the net are of greater significance than the things that get through. This does not mean removal of ITAR, but it does mean it should be no stronger than the US is willing or able to enforce. Otherwise it hinders allies without hurting threats. ITAR, as it stands, is also open to extreme abuse. In Britain, it is illegal to export anything to any country for the purpose of, or in the knowledge it will be used for, violating international law. Doesn't matter if the recipient is an ally, doesn't matter if the export would have been legal for any other use. Criminal cases along these lines usually don't change behaviour and don't often succeed, but they do generate some measure of accountability that simply doesn't exist in the current ITAR.

    And that, ultimately, is the sole purpose of any sort of export control on militarizable technology - preventing it from being abused by the recipient. If it was going to be used sensibly and rationally, what would it matter who it was sent to? It may be entirely reasonable to assume that X is never going to be sensible or rational, but if X is likely to develop the technology soon anyway and is threatening Y who is not, then blocking the technology helps, not hinders, X. Since the US cannot police the world (it has tried!), all of these different factors need to be considered. A law that is absolutely rigid by name and not by any other criteria can never consider such factors.

    I don't know what the correct solution would be, that would require considerable analysis in areas I'm not familiar enough with, but it will involve more role-based access controls and fewer fixed lists.

  • Looks to me like... (Score:3, Informative)

    by FatSean (18753) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:40PM (#33535248) Homepage Journal

    Looks to me like our military fetish and desire to be a world super power is stifling advancements in aerospace. This is an industry where the USA can still compete with the world. We need to cultivate this industry instead of choking it.

  • by modecx (130548) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:44PM (#33535292)

    ITAR truly is an ineffective, bureaucratic cluserfuck (as if there's any other kind). Not only does it completely fail at its claimed mission, it really does hamper scientific discovery, internationally cooperative efforts for developing weapons and other technologies, and even local commerce.

    submersibles, underwater robots, etc:
    The Department of State (DoS from here on out) keeps close track of these because they're on a list of "munitions". Any time you want to enter foreign waters/return to the US with one of these, you need the import/export paperwork described above--or else run afoul potential criminal consequences.

    Firearms related manufacturing for US-only consumption:
    Besides claiming to only regulate import/export of various items of military interest, ITAR does in fact also regulate the domestic production of things like bullets, cartridges, propellants and guns, gun parts etc. etc. Manufacturers of such goods currently pay $2200 per year to register with the DoS... Even if the items will never be exported. About the only firearm related thing specifically exempted from the scope of ITAR are shotguns made expressly for sporting purposes.

  • by dwheeler (321049) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:46PM (#33535308) Homepage Journal
    Actually, the U.S. administration has already admitted that the current export control system is messed up. In April 2010 U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a major overhaul of America’s export control regime, saying the current system is outdated, hurts America’s competitiveness, and does not adequately protect national security [parabolicarc.com]. Of course, admitting there's a problem is not the same as making a change that solves it (or makes it better), but at least they know there are problems and are trying to find solutions. I particularly like this part: "One major culprit is an overly broad definition of what should be subject to export classification and control. The real-world effect is to make it more difficult to focus on those items and technologies that truly need to stay in this country. Frederick the Great’s famous maxim that “he who defends everything defends nothing” certainly applies to export control."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:15PM (#33535678)

    So then, the law succeeded at its goal of assuring a job for an American who wanted the job instead of foreign-born labor?

    You and I both might think that's silly or counterproductive, but you have to admit, the law achieved its goal.

    Uh, no. If you think a foreign student working on a research project at the school they are paying to attend is the same as a foreign person on a work visa, then you have serious observation issues.

    Work Visa Student Visa

    Many discoveries at US Universities are made by people on academic visas.

    Also of note: Foreign-born labor includes the Governor of California and the President of the US.
    Just because you are foreign born doesn't mean that you aren't a citizen.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers