Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tear Down ITAR's Wall.

A serious drawbacks to America's policy of regulating its commercial space industry under the very strict arms control regime of ITAR is how it isolates the United States. Dennis Wingo, of the company Orbital Recovery, an American company with business ties to European companies, described consequence of that at the recent Space Frontier Foundation annual conference in Los Angeles. According to him, the European Space Agency has a goal of making its entire space infrastructure "ITAR-free." What that means is eliminating any American made component from that infrastructure. And these are our closest allies!

Meanwhile, ESA unites European countries in a mission to explore space. Russia and ESA are making plans for cooperative space missions and space technological development. And now in Asia, China has set up a space-cooperation organization.

The Chinese led alliance is called the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO).
"BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Representatives from eight Asia-Pacific nations signed a convention on space organization cooperation here Friday, marking a milestone for the final establishment of the organization.

The Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), an international governmental organization with its headquarters in Beijing, aims to promote multilateral cooperation in space technology and its application in the region.

The eight states are Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand. Representatives from Argentina, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine also attended the signing ceremony of the APSCO Convention.

The APSCO will be officially set up in Beijing after China receives final approval from at least five participating countries."
(Story here. Further background on the formation of APSCO can be found here and here.)

While China, Europe, and Russia are opening their space programs to international cooperation, the United States government places nearly insurmountable regulatory roadblocks in the way of its companies cooperating with foreigners. Forcing American companies to go it alone in space is bound to retard their development. That could lead to America falling behind the rest of the world as other countries cooperate and share space technology. Access to and control of space is as much a national security issue as arms control. If ITAR continues to isolate America and push other countries away from cooperating with our aerospace companies, the national security of the United States in space is bound to suffer.

When President George Bush announced his space exploration vision in January of 2004 he talked about international cooperation.
"We'll invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery. The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship."
(Transcript here.)

ITAR interferes with that vision and harms American interests. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: "Mr. President, tear down ITAR's wall."


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