Federal law to widen state aerospace trade

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Local aerospace experts are discussing the enforcement of a new federal export law that some say will profoundly affect Colorado’s trade and production of space technology and research.

Industry experts and representatives delivered public comments about the new law and its implementation at a recent forum organized by the Rocky Mountain District Export Council.

The comments, many of which advocated specifying what products and services the law actually pertains to, were later forwarded to both the Department of State and Department of Commerce, according to DEC Legislative Chairman Kip Cheroutes.

“Economic development experts reminded them of the job creating benefits of increased export,” Cheroutes said in a July 5 news release.

The latest iteration of the National Defense Authorization Act included the amendment, which will relaxing now-stringent U.S. export and licensure policies on satellites and other space-related technologies.

The bill was authored and proposed by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, in response “to a government report that concluded this technology could be sold without damage to national security interests,” according to the release.

“These reforms are huge, especially in a place like Colorado Springs, where the military and aerospace sectors play such a vital role in the city’s economy,” said Kristin Lynch, Bennet’s press secretary. “These reforms will allow American firms that manufacture these satellites, many of them located in the Springs, to better compete on a global level.”

The law essentially allows satellites and related items not found to be a threat to defense initiatives to be transferred from the United States Munitions List to the Commerce Control List.

“Colorado is a leading aerospace state, ranking first in terms of private aerospace employees per capita, and is home to the second largest number of private aerospace employees in the nation,” Colorado Space Coalition spokesman Frank Schuchat said during the event. “Colorado has seen space employment grow by 19 percent in the past decade, and close to 167,000 space-related jobs currently bring in nearly $3 billion in annual payroll to the state.”

According to Schuchat, “Colorado’s satellite manufacturing industry directly employs approximately 860 workers in nearly 20 companies, with an average wage of just over $104,000, and a total annual payroll of approximately $85.7 million.”

U.S. Department of Commerce officials have said that the final rules for satellites and other CCL export items will be sent to Congress this fall and will be subsequently published by the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Among the items up for proposed transfer to the CCL are a variety of satellites — commercial communication, lower-performance remote sensing, planetary rovers, as well as planetary and interplanetary probes — as well as thousands of types of parts, components, software, systems and subsystems, and equipment related to passenger space travel.

Brian Emmet, a spokesman for aerospace technology corporation Lockheed Martin, said at the event that this law has the potential to bolster trade and manufacturing in both the state and country as a whole. Lockheed Martin has multiple Colorado Springs locations that collectively employ around 1,400 people.

“Export sales are more important than ever to the success of the U.S. commercial satellite manufacturers and to the overall health of the U.S. space industrial base, which provides thousands of high quality jobs in research and development, engineering, and manufacturing throughout the United States and here in Colorado,” Emmet said. “The more we can do to streamline export controls on commercial satellites and related programs, the more competitive we can be in the international marketplace.”

While various items are likely to be transferred, many will remain on the prohibited list: satellites and spacecraft with unique military and intelligence functions, ground control equipment that performs a uniquely military function, as well as parts and components for such items.

The language that Congress added to the National Defense Authorization Act was a step toward export reform, giving the president authority to transfer those items to the Commerce Control List throughout the 2013 fiscal year.

The language also prohibits the export of any such items to China, North Korea or any state known to be sponsoring terrorism.

“Combined, the new law and regulations will help to strengthen the U.S. satellite industry, restore U.S. competitiveness abroad and create new jobs here in the United States,” Emmet said.