My rant for the day about ITAR. Well, I am ranting about ITAR most days! It is a rather difficult situation where another country’s regulations are imposed on your country. Well how did this happen? First I had better explain what ITAR is. This from Wikipedia:
International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML). These regulations implement the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), and are described in Title 22 (Foreign Relations), Chapter I (Department of State), Subchapter M of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) interprets and enforces ITAR. Its goal is to safeguard U.S. national security and further U.S. foreign policy objectives. The related Export Administration Regulations (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15 chapter VII, subchapter C) are enforced and interpreted by the Bureau of Industry and Security in the Commerce Department. The Department of Defense is also involved in the review and approval process. Physical enforcement of import and export laws at border crossings is performed by Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.
Simply put, Australia has forged a close trade alignment with the USA and to obtain those trade concessions, we had to agree to ITAR. This makes it very difficult indeed to work in the space sector and still obey Australian laws and ITAR. One simple issue is Australian Discrimination law. These are strong and rigidly enforced and in essence making everyone equal. Even those with temporary visas that allows work in Australia. There are also those with dual or multiple citizenship and ITAR has issues with this. It even affected NASA’s Australian Deep Space Network near Canberra. I was there last April and recently posted this on Facebook:
I was invited to NASA’s 40th Anniversary celebrations of the 70m (230ft) diameter dish at their Deep Space Network (DSN) site near Canberra in Australia. It was in April 2013 – earlier this year. Note the three flags in the image below – the US, Australian and CSIRO. The CSIRO is an Australian organisation that has been contracted to run the site for many years – CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Continued below…
Australia has close security arrangements with the US and we have access to ITAR restricted material under special trade arrangements with the US government. Australia is therefore somewhat controlled by the ITAR regulations in unusual ways. CSIRO ran into issues with ITAR as some of their employees were legally citizens from other countries. This is a bit of a red flag under ITAR rules and it is also a breach of Australian law if you remove staff from certain areas because of race – we have strong anti-discrimination laws here in Australia. The only way that we got around this was to absorb all the Australian DSN staff into the government as government employees and that satisfied ITAR. So basically we now have rules written by a foreign government that are also enforced in Australia – crazy. I guess if they change ITAR, we also have to change!
I am glad that we have good security arrangements with the US, but it is hard for me to work in the space sector when one of my main aerospace engineers at PlusComms holds three passports! I remain concerned about the ITAR minefield I am crossing in my company.
This is also a minefield for our team in the Google Lunar X-Prize – Stellar Aerospace – our new name. We have many countries involved and their laws on exporting knowledge and equipment are all part of the equation.