A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is urging policy makers to consider the weight, speed, and range of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) so as to allow U.S. company exports of such systems without running the risk that foreign countries could use some of the exports to proliferate cruise missiles.

Eric Fanning, the president and CEO of AIA, on Feb. 14 called for full implementation of the reforms in the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, including ensuring that export controls on UAS “reflect market conditions and technology trends.”

In the past, countries, such as the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, were denied in their purchase request for U.S. drones, and China stepped in to become a supplier. Under the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Trump administration has advocated facilitating the export of any UAS, such as the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, that flies under 650 kilometers per hour.

The administration’s Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, announced last April, says that among the considerations involved in the executive branch making an arms transfer decision will be “the recipient’s ability to field, support, and employ the requested system effectively and appropriately in accordance with its intended end use” and “the risk that the transfer could undermine the integrity of international nonproliferation agreements and arrangements that prevent proliferators, programs, and entities of concern from acquiring missile technologies or other technologies that could substantially advance their ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, or otherwise lead to a transfer to potential adversaries of a capability that could threaten the superiority of the United States military or our allies and partners.”

Fanning also made a pitch on Feb. 14 for infrastructure investment in the National Aerospace System to deal with growing air space traffic and future UAS and urban air mobility needs.

AIA said that it would like to see a 3 to 5 percent increase above inflation in defense and non-defense aerospace spending in the administration’s FY 2020 budget release, which is likely to come next month. In 2017, aerospace contributed $865 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy and employed some 2.4 million people–about 20 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, according to AIA.

Aerospace industry leaders are pushing for a return to “regular order” in the federal budget process and an end to the partisan brinkmanship in continuing resolutions.

On Feb. 14, Fanning called for a budget deal that covers FY 2020 and 2021–the final years of the Budget Control Act–and a “multi-year program authorization for NASA to provide stability to their programs.”