Congress moved Tuesday to relax stringent commercial satellite export control laws by returning to the president the authority to determine appropriate requirements after years of military-level oversight.

The compromise fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill would allow satellites and related items pushed to the stricter U.S. Munitions List (USML) following enactment of the fiscal year 1999 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be transferred back to the less-stringent Commerce Control List (CCL). The bill would literally repeal a section of the FY ’99 NDAA.

The compromise bill would still require the president to submit reports to Congress for any item removed from the USML. Section 38(f) of the Arms Export Control Act requires the president to periodically review items on the USML to determine if any items no longer warrant USML controls and report the results to the House speaker and the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committees.

The compromise bill would also prohibit the launching of items transferred as a result of this amendment to China, North Korea, designated state sponsors of terrorism like Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria or any country with a comprehensive arms embargo.

Industry has been pushing for years for relaxing commercial satellite export control reform, saying overly strict regulations hurt the defense industrial base. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Tuesday in a statement applauded the move to end “draconian over-regulation.” AIA said this legislation would free the executive branch to treat commercial satellite technology like all other regulated technology and propose appropriate adjustments to export requirements.

"Ending this self-imposed burden on U.S. competitiveness in the global commercial satellite marketplace is critical to our national security and to ensuring the U.S. space industrial base stays second to none," AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said in a statement.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) also endorsed the move Tuesday in a statement, saying it would help restore America’s global competitiveness in high-tech satellite technology while also protecting vital U.S. national security interests.

The heads of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled Tuesday the final product of a conference committee that negotiated a compromise fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill. It authorizes $1.7 billion in funding beyond what President Barack Obama requested, calling for a $552.2 billion base defense budget and $88.5 billion in war funding.

The compromise bill melds together the versions the House passed in May and the Senate OK’d this month. Each chamber plans to vote on the final legislation this week, starting with the House today, and send it to Obama before the weekend (Defense Daily, Dec. 19).