Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered a keynote address today at the Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (GEOINT) Symposium in San Antonio, Texas. Ranking Member Ruppersberger laid out his vision to keep America at the forefront in space.
More than fifty years ago, the United States was shocked into action after Russia launched the first man-made satellite called Sputnik. America stepped up to the challenge, made a significant investment in research and development and landed a man on the moon 12 years later. A robust American industry was born. America's space program drives innovation throughout the entire space and satellite industry. Technology perfected through space missions is used on other satellites that keep our country safe. Today, five decades later, America's dominance in space is being threatened by China, Russia and other countries.
"I believe our country is at a crossroads when it comes to America's future in space. We face the lack of a comprehensive space plan, skyrocketing costs, outdated export controls, resolution restrictions that hurt commercial industry and commercial capabilities that are not being widely considered. I believe we must solve these issues to ensure U.S. preeminence in space to protect our nation," said Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).
Lack of a Comprehensive Space Plan
Last year, President Obama cancelled Constellation, the plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. It jeopardized an $11.5 billion investment and potentially put thousands of skilled rocket scientists out of work. Ranking Member Ruppersberger is pleased the President and NASA recently announced the Space Launch System to hopefully, allow for human exploration beyond earth's orbit, but believes we need a more comprehensive space plan. Ranking Member Ruppersberger believes we must commit to return a man to the moon, Mars or beyond through a program run by NASA in partnership with private companies. We must also consider sending a robot into space first, before sending a person.
In this time of tight budgets, Ranking Member Ruppersberger believes we must ensure we are managing our satellite programs efficiently to make sure we are using every dollar wisely. In the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2012, the House Intelligence Committee made important investments to continue with the President's "Way Ahead," the Administration's satellite initiative, while also investing in alternative systems that could promise lower costs in the future. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting intense oversight to continue to bring these costs down.
Outdated Export Controls
Twenty years ago, American companies controlled more than 70 percent of the commercial satellite industry, but because of ITAR, the International Traffic and Arms Regulation, that number has dropped to 27 percent and slipping. The House passed legislation relaxing ITAR restrictions for satellites and components that do not pose a national security risk, but the measure failed in the Senate. The exposure got the attention of the Obama Administration, which is currently reforming the regulations. Ranking Member Ruppersberger believes we need to keep up the pressure.
Right now, American policy prohibits American commercial imagery companies from selling the most capable satellite that they have developed. In other countries, companies are selling a competitive satellite at a cheaper price because they don't face these restrictions. Ranking Member Ruppersberger believes American companies need to be able to sell much more of their technology here and overseas to increase their market share while always protecting America's national security.
American launches are too expensive and frequently face extensive delays. Ranking Member Ruppersberger believes we must consider commercial competition to drive down launch costs and keep launches on a reliable schedule.
"I believe we must make these critical decisions to ensure American dominance in space in the future. Our nation deserves no less," said Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberbger (D-MD).