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Will US Change ITAR?

The Economist magazine, witnesses at a Congressional hearing, and the National Research Council argue for change in export controls.

Gravity is not the main obstacle for the space business, says The Economist magazine. Government is.

An opinion piece in an August 2008 edition of the magazine argues that the U.S. arms export legislation known as ITAR is stifling innovation and needs a major overhaul.

"Whether the component is a motor, a control valve, a star tracker, an antenna or a chip, it is simpler to look for non-American alternatives," the magazine says. "... Reducing the revenue and profit of the space industry might be a reasonable thing to do if such constraints supported military objectives. But critics accuse ITAR of imposing such a burden on smaller companies that it is harming the entire industry, and thus national security."

The magazine article is just one of many recent calls for reform of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

A panel of expert witnesses at a February 2009 hearing of the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee unanimously agreed that the current system is outdated and that ITAR denies U.S. researchers the ability to collaborate with friendly foreign powers.

A report released 8 January by the National Research Council also calls for immediate reform of the export controls.

"In the modern globalized world of science and technology, restrictions on the flow of information, technology, and scientists can negatively impact both U.S. competitiveness and security," said John Hennessy, president of Stanford University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report, Beyond "Fortress America:" National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World.

The report urges that the new U.S. president immediately issue an executive order to change the rules, which it said were "fundamentally broken."

Last updated 4 March 2009

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200901.44

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