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July 24, 2007 

ITAR Called "Threat" to International Space Station

At a hearing held today by the House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on the status of NASA's Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs, Tommy Holloway, Chairman, of the ISS Independent Safety Task Force said that the current International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) restrictions on NASA are a threat to the safe and successful integration and operations of the ISS.

Mr. Holloway, who formerly served as Manager of NASA's Space Station and Space Shuttle programs, told the members of the Subcommittee that:

Currently the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) restrictions and IP [International Partner] objections to signing what the IPs believe are redundant Technical Assistance Agreements are a threat to the safe and successful integration and operation of the Station. For example, a contractor workforce comprises a majority of the operations workforce and must be able to have a direct interface with the IP operations team to assure safe and successful operations. Their interactions and their ability to exchange and discuss technical data relevant to vehicle operations are severely hampered by the current ITAR restrictions. This is an issue across the ISS Program, but must be resolved soon to allow operations training for the first flight of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) in the first part of 2008.
In response to written questions posed by the Subcommittee for recommendations on how to resolve these issues, he stated:

NASA depends heavily on U.S. contractors for technical support for Station integration and for operations. These contractors are the source of data and expertise that is critical in meeting schedules and performing mandatory work with the IPs. For example, the mission operations contractors comprise a majority of the operations workforce and must be able to have a direct interface with the IP operations teams to assure safe and successful operations. Currently the ITAR restrictions and the IPs' objections to signing technical assistance agreements are a threat to the safe and successful integration and operations of the Station.

Each U.S. contractor working with the European, Japanese, and Russian space agencies is required to apply for a Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA) from the State Department that governs their interactions with foreign entities for each specific relationship. U.S. aerospace and defense companies are accustomed to dealing with these TAA requirements in what has become a normal part of international business. However, when the Department of State approvals are too narrowly defined and come with many caveats, limitations, and provisos, they severely restrict Program management flexibility. The constraints imposed by the current processes result in lost time and opportunity to share critical data to enable a robust joint Program.

I would grant immediate relief in the form of an [ITAR] exemption to allow NASA contractors direct interaction with the IPs and their contractors to facilitate and accommodate all engineering and safety reviews, data exchanges pertaining to specific ATV/HTV hardware and software, Program management interactions, and flight operations including anomaly resolution.

The full of Mr. Holloways' testimony and recommendations can be found at

Concerns about ITAR-related "challenges" with respect to the completion of the International Space Station were also raised in testimony presented to the Subcommittee by the Government Accountability Office.

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