Nonproliferation and the Space Station

In his testimony before the House Science Committee on Tuesday, NASA chief Mike Griffin said that the administration was asking Congress to amend the Iran Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 106-178) -- the law that prohibits the U.S. from procuring goods and services for the space station from Russia.

I got few e-mails from Probe readers about the INA issue. Over on Open CRS, I found a March 2005 Congressional Research Service report,
The Iran Nonproliferation Act and the International Space Station: Issues and Options by Sharon Squassoni and Marcia S. Smith. It's a good, short overview. (And thanks to my ol' buddy Bob Ambrogi over at LawSites for bloggin' about the new Open CRS site. I still think the CRS itself should make all their reports immediately available to the pubic on their own site. After all, tax dollars pay for this research.)

As the report summarizes, "The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (INA) was enacted to help stop foreign transfers to Iran of weapons of mass destruction, missile technology, and advanced conventional weapons technology, particularly from Russia. Section 6 of the INA bans U.S. payments to Russia in connection with the International Space Station (ISS) unless the U.S. President determines that Russia is taking steps to prevent such proliferation. The ISS is currently under construction in orbit. According to current plans, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will become dependent on Russia for certain ISS crew-related services beginning in April 2006 for which NASA must pay. Thus, the INA could significantly affect U.S. utilization of ISS."

What a sad dilemma. Starting next year, the U.S. must be able to pay Russia to use the Soyuz spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from the space station. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is right in applauding as "a worthy goal" the U.S.'s attempt, via the INA, "to make sure we used all of the leverage that we had to try to get [Russia] out of this nuclear power plant in Iran." But he noted the effort failed and "[t]here is no reason for us not to be realistic now."

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