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AAS ACTION ALERT 2001-05

SUMMARY

This Action Alert summarizes the current FY2002 budget situation and discusses a policy topic broadly known as the ITAR Issue. We recommend that AAS members write letters to two specific members of Congress thanking them for their recent action on the ITAR issue. We also include a short summary of the FY 2002 Budget situation.

FY 2002 Budget Summary

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill and astronomy has fared well. The next step in the process is to form a conference committee to iron out the differences and return the revised bill to each house for approval.

Updates on the process and links to bill text are available on the AAS FY2002 Budget page: ( http://www.aas.org/policy/FY2002Budget.html).

There is increased funding for NSF astronomy in both bills, the Telescope Systems Instrumentation Program is funded and construction of the ALMA telescope is funded under the Major Research Equipment account.

Because of accounting changes in the NASA budget, the exact situation is not clear. However, the usually large number of earmarks in the Office of Space Science Budget have been greatly reduced, with the bulk now occurring in the Academic Activities portion of the Science, Aeronautics and Technology budget. There are still some earmarks in the OSS budget line, but there are not as many as in prior years.

When Congress returns from the August recess, we expect the appropriations process to proceed quickly. Members should be prepared to respond quickly if some threat to astronomy funding becomes apparent.

ITAR BACKGROUND

In the 1999 Department of Defense Authorization bill, Congress transferred responsibility for satellite technology to the State Department from the Commerce Department. Fundamental research activity that was subject to an exclusion under the National Security Directive 189 became formally regulated and made subject to the State Department's International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

This shift directly impacts astronomers working on research and experimental satellites. Numerous problems have been created by this change in ITAR implementation. In one case, American university scientists collaborating with European colleagues on a NASA-supported research mission, which incorporated a European instrument, were not permitted to share incoming data from the spacecraft with their colleagues unless they obtained an export license.

There are numerous other examples of how this regulation change has adversely impacted university and other researchers. Many are archived at the Association of American Universities (AAU) web page on the issue: http://www.aau.edu/traffic.html. Violations of ITAR can also carry very stiff personal fines (not institutional fines) of up to $1 million dollars per violation.

CURRENT SITUATION

The AAU and other organizations are pursuing strategies to remedy the impact of this policy change. Both administrative and legislative fixes are in the works. The AAU has developed an excellent strategy that is being endorsed by many in the science policy community.

Specifically, the basic position of the AAU is that "The higher education community seeks re-affirmation of the Reagan Administration's National Security Decision Directive, NSDD-189, which states that 1) that the policy of the Administration is that, to the maximum extent possible, the conduct and products of fundamental research remain unrestricted; and 2) if access to information generated in universities is to be controlled, the government must use the classification process, not regulatory extensions of export controls."

An administrative fix to the problem is still seen as the best possible resolution for this situation, but legislative action is being pursued as well.

Recently, Congressman Boehlert (R-NY), the House Science Committee Chair and Ralph Hall (D-TX), the Ranking Minority Member on the House Science Committee, wrote a letter to President Bush asking him to work toward resolving the universities' issues with ITAR. Other members of Congress are considering similar action.

ACTION REQUESTED

The AAS requests that its members send letters to Chairman Boehlert and Congressman Hall thanking them for taking this action and pledging to work with them to resolve this issue.

Only by positively reinforcing and thanking members of Congress for their support of basic research can we be guaranteed that these actions will continue. By thanking chairman Boehlert and Congressman Hall, AAS members will both show their support for this action (which may ultimately help our community) and let the Congressmen know that there is a active, vibrant community who follows their actions on the Hill.

Please include your own example of how the change in ITAR implementation has impacted your own or your colleagues' research efforts.

A sample letter and addresses are given below.

Sidney Wolff, Chair, AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy

Kevin B. Marvel, Associate Executive Officer for Policy Programs

The Honorable Sherwood L. Boehlert

2246 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Ralph Hall

2221 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Congressman Boeherlt,

I am writing to thank you for your recent efforts to resolve the negative impacts caused by the recent implementation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations on basic research activities connected with satellite technology.

As you know, the 1999 Defense Authorization bill transferred the responsibility for satellite technology from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State and did away with the basic research exclusion under National Security Directive 189.

This modification, though seemingly harmless, has in fact caused a great deal of difficulty in the University research community. I recognize that certain satellite technologies must be regulated to ensure National security. However, by placing the same constraints on basic research satellites, such as those developed by NASA's Office of Space Science to conduct basic research on the nature of our Universe and the objects it hosts, this policy change has negatively impacted the progress of science.

In just one notable example, US researchers, working in close collaboration with European colleagues on a basic research satellite, were advised that they could not share data gathered by the satellite with their European colleagues without first obtaining an export license. This is an obvious hindrance to basic research.

By writing a letter to President Bush with your colleague Ralph Hall, you have shown that this issue is of importance to you and to the American public. I thank you for your support of the science community in this matter.

If there is anything I can do for you or your office, please do not hesitate to call on me.

Sincerely,

Stahrs R. Twinklun

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[Mailed from aas.org at 2:25pm 06 AUG 2001]

To read previous AAS Informational Emails visit http://www.aas.org/policy/InformationalEmails.html

To read previous AAS Action Alerts visit http://www.aas.org/policy/ActionAlerts.html

Comments, questions and complaints to: mailto:marvel@aas.org

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