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Arms Regulations Damaging US Space Industry 184

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 Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:38AM (#33534462) Homepage

    Reminds me how the Arms Controls stifled innovation and adoption in the Crypto field back in the 1990s.

    • Just a shirt? C'mon, you really want to go for the tattoo! []

    • Does it still hinder some crypto, though? Like how Blu-Ray and DVD player encryption can't have currently-unbreakable keys, as that would make them ineligible for export under ITAR?

      (And yes, I'm sure most regard this as a good thing, and not because they like to pirate movies, either.)

      • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @02:06PM (#33536448)
        No, Blu-Ray and DVD (or any other form of DRM) cannot have unbreakable encryption because it would be a literal impossibility. You posses both the ciphertext and the key at the same time.
      • I'm not entirely certain it does.

        The crux of the shirt problem, and what put Phil Zimmerman afoul of the US goverment so many times is a useable crypto implementation. Which is why you couldn't get Browsers with 128 bit crypto for so long.

        Basically they don't want the bad guys to be able to hide their secrets. What affect this had on online banking in allied countries I have no idea.

        The Blu-ray disc is encrypted, the blu-ray player can decrypt it, but neither one can encrypt original data.

        • Well, it did lead to South Korea rolling their own system, SEED. Which their banks then implemented entirely in ActiveX. Which meant that every non-IE browser became useless for homebanking, which is one reason why South Korea is pretty much Windows-only.
        • We all used full encryption with software written by someone not in the US. Not only was the US anal with crytpo exports, but a lot of public key algos are patented (what that you say about patenting math). However these patents were/are US only.

          It was pretty funny really. We had 128bit everything in one company, except when connecting to the US offices.
      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        Since when is a Blu-ray or DVD player made in America? I have yet to see at least the major components made by an American manufacturing company. The specification itself is of Japanese origin (Toshiba wrote the original DVD spec), so what is American except for the patents and lawyers involved with the whole thing?

    • for those gen-Y and gen-Z people, this is what he is talking about. []

      BTW: people did go to jail for wearing these things!

  • by Burnhard ( 1031106 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:39AM (#33534468)
    Our company used to buy a certain kind of component from the US to put into the products we make. Every single one needed an export licence and an import licence. That is an export licence from the US and an import licence from the UK. If something goes wrong with the component and it needs fixing, we need an export licence from the UK and an import licence to the US to return it for fixing or replacement. Again, that replacement needs another import/export licence. That's just for traffic between the UK and the US. If you're then going to export your product to a third country, you need another export licence and possibly another import licence for that country too. It's so bad we actually hire people just to track what's going on with all of the difference licences!

    To cut a long story short, we switched supplier to a European company who make similar components. Now of course we need an import licence for the US if selling to the US, but in general apart from countries like Iran, we can freely export our product without the nightmare stack of licences and yes, it is a factor you talk about when giving sales presentations.
    • 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.

      • by Alastor187 ( 593341 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:33PM (#33535152)

        Where I work we deal with both EAR and ITAR equipment. Since I have been here I have seen a lot of different points of view. Currently, as I understand it, we treat any mechanical or un-programmed electrical hardware as EAR. Unless there are special circumstances (i.e. specific customer requirements).

        Electrical hardware doesn't become ITAR unless it has ITAR software/firmware on it. Sub-assembly and top level drawings are EAR unless they call out a piece of hardware that is ITAR. Once a lower level drawing calls out an ITAR item all higher level assembly drawings have to be ITAR as well. While, an ITAR assembly drawing can call out either ITAR or EAR items, an EAR assembly can only call out EAR items in the BOM.

      • by volcanopele ( 537152 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @01:38PM (#33536000)
        It also affects proposals to NASA that have ANY international collaborators. When sending out various drafts, we have either ITAR-safe or ITAR-unsafe versions because foreign citizens not working in the US are not allowed to even read vague descriptions of hardware, let alone have the hardware. So for the ITAR-safe version, whole sections of the proposal have to be removed for the safety of our foreign collaborators. After all, if you know how to build a [redacted for your safety], you must be a terrorist...
        • Out of interest is any of that even vaguely effective or can documentation of a similar nature for similar hardware be found freely available in other countries and foreign textbooks?

    • 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.

  • OMG! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:41AM (#33534504)

    Yeah, that's pretty much the case. I used to work in an aerospace company. We liked to use the adjective ITAR'ded.

  • Old News (Score:2, Interesting)

    Yeah, and this has been the case since, oh, 2001? Well, at least it seems that's when it started to be enforced more strictly. I've heard rumblings that the administration was going to change it, but who knows how likely that is.

    Hmmm... I wonder if we could correlate the US's drop in space proficiency with when ITAR for space components started?

  • by mrsteveman1 ( 1010381 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @11:44AM (#33534558)


  • But ITAR is responsible for keeping a lot more US jobs than it loses thanks to it's prohibitions. In a lot of places it's the only thing keeping engineering and manufacturing from being outsourced.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Yep, yay for the "job security clearance" for providing us with unexportable work opportunities. Like escorting / watching over the shoulders of uncleared contractors while they do the real work :-P Oh, and verifying all the export compliance and foreign visitor paperwork! Fun times to be had by all!

      It has a multiplicative effect on the economy... sort of like how bad schools lead to more prisoners which leads to more lucrative prison warden and supply contractor jobs!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by noidentity ( 188756 )
      Yes, because the world would be better off if every one of us lived on an island, unable to specialize.
    • Backwards! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FranTaylor ( 164577 )

      Engineering and manufacturing are being outsourced PRECISELY so they don't run afoul of iTAR!

      We are LOSING sales and LOSING jobs and LOSING technology due to this stupidity.

      • No. For the vast majority of ITAR items the US is and will be for the near future the largest customer. Primarily the government by $ value. A US company cannot produce an ITAR item outside the US thinking it can circumvent restrictions. In order to do that you would have to export information from the US on how to make it.

        Are there some businesses that are starting up overseas because what they wish to produce may fall under itar? Probably. But dollar value wise that is piddle compared to the job loss th
    • by tmosley ( 996283 )
      You got some numbers to back that up? I didn't think so.

      You know you're in trouble when competitors have a strong selling point that they are not you.
      • Let's see, we do about equal shares military and commercial products. Number of foreign nationals local or offshore working on a military program? 0. Number working on a commercial program > 0. Hopefully the same number twice will satisfy your need for numbers.
    • by shish ( 588640 )

      In a lot of places it's the only thing keeping engineering and manufacturing from being outsourced.

      Why can't the Americans compete based on price or quality? If you need a law saying that you have to buy from a certain set of companies, then by my understanding capitalism has broken...

      (I am aware that this might come across as flamebait, but it is an actual honest question, I just can't think of a more polite way of asking it)

      • ITAR simply means it's not exportable (easily). The primary use/intent is military or national security items. For example, the entire F35, or B1, or Ohio class submarine programs falls under ITAR. Or in cases such as Space (Constellation program for example) it may be because the US gov't has invested heavily in the research and it simply doesn't want to now give it away to foreign nations so they can easily play catchup and not have to invest the billions that the US put into it to get there. Has nothing
  • by quatin ( 1589389 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:01PM (#33534734)

    I was part of the CubeSAT program at my university. We were designing a 1 foot x 1 foot x 1 foot satellite to be launched. To track the satellite, we needed a GPS module on board. However, due to the ITAR components on the module, the student in charge of software couldn't touch the GPS code or schematics, because he was not a US citizen.

    • by Myopic ( 18616 )

      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.

      • by quatin ( 1589389 )

        You guys aren't even reading the post. This is a SCHOOL program at a UNIVERSITY. It is not a job. It is not for the military. It is not for a private company. It is purely academic for the benefit of STUDENTS at the UNIVERSITY.

        • If universities had some kind of blanket exception to ITAR, you can bet that they would fill up with foreign students who would get access to restricted hardware (for "educational" purposes, natch) which would then get "lost" and find its way to Iran. ITAR is probably more restrictive than it needs to be, but I don't think it can be fixed by adding loopholes.

  • ... contained how to conform to US export restrictions. The regulations are ludicrous and it is extremely easy to run afoul. E.g. having a foreign visitor glimpsing a concept at a whiteboard can be counted as an export of classified ideas.

    I worked in Germany, the US and now Canada for the same employer. I can legally work in all these places. One thing is for sure - if I ever start my own shop it won't be in the US. Any meaningful business has to be global these days and the US is just not as open to th

  • Old Issue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rhkaloge ( 208983 )

    ITAR has been around for my 10 years in space systems and was around before me. European companies are just using it as an excuse to award European only contracts to kill off American competitors. It's actually been greatly improved in recent years, with a majority of commercial space components being put under the Commerce Dept rather than ITAR.

  • Embraer KC-390 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Friday September 10, 2010 @12:36PM (#33535190) Journal
    Brasil is developing a C-130-class military transport with no US technology in it specifically to get around ITAR. Scuttlebutt is that Venezuela is the driver but it wouldn't surprise me if most countries are tired of the US sticking their nose in.
  • 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 []. 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 radtea ( 464814 )

      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.

      Presumably with the same awsome efficiency and effictiveness that the American federal government dealt with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, and are currently dealing the space program.

      Government solutions are pretty effective for most problems world-wide, but the US federal government seems uniquely capable of making of mess of things.

  • This is perfectly in line with Standard Superpower Policy. The superpower(s) will always strive to maintain and crystallize the status quo. And in the grand quest of doing so they will continually mess shit up while stacking layers of beurocracy on beurocracy until what should be an hourglass shaped hierarchy looks more like a pyramid balancing on its top.

    Big fucking suprise things reach a tipping point with such a distribution of mass.
  • ... that the US was technologically inferior to Europe and Asia. That we were behind in technology.

    Now all of a sudden the world needs our chips? Our technologically inferior chips?

    Who knew?

  • Over regulation can damage an industry? NO FREAKING WAY!

  • And the reason this screwed-up situation doesn't get fixed, is that whatever politician moves first to try to improve things will get roasted by his opposition for getting troops killed/costing American jobs/betraying us. Bloviating gasbag pundits/celebrities/talk-show hosts will pick up the story, and the public will whip themselves up into a frenzy over the supposed sell-out, because that's what their Guts tell them to do.

    If by some chance all political factions come to a sane consensus (some of them rea

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