Export Controls:

International Space Station Technology Transfers

NSIAD-00-14: Published: Nov 3, 1999. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 1999.

Additional Materials:


Jack L. Brock, Jr
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) implementation of federal export control regulations for International Space Station technology transfers, focusing on: (1) the licenses granted to NASA to export space station-related technology and commodities and plans to export encryption technology; (2) the results of internal and external assessments of NASA's export control program; and (3) NASA's actions to implement audit recommendations.

GAO noted that: (1) since April 1995, the Department of Commerce has issued nine Individual Validated Licenses to export specific items and one special comprehensive license that allows NASA to export certain preapproved items without seeking Commerce's approval each time NASA needs to export them for the International Space Station Program; (2) although the special comprehensive license was intended to preclude the need for individual licenses, NASA has only used it once because it has not been updated and individual licenses are easier to obtain than updating the special comprehensive license; (3) as new export requirements have materialized, NASA has elected to apply for individual licenses rather than amend the special comprehensive license; (4) the Department of State has not issued any licenses to NASA to export technology or commodities for the International Space Station; (5) however, NASA erroneously authorized the export of radiation-hardened electronic parts to Russia in 1997 without first obtaining a license from State; (6) NASA expects to export encryption technology for use in the program but has not determined whether a license is needed; (7) NASA expects that such exports will be limited to its Japanese and European partners; (8) internal and external reviews of NASA's export control activities have identified weaknesses, including a need for greater management involvement in export-related decisions and additional training to educate employees involved with technology control about export laws, regulations, and procedures; (9) NASA has taken steps to correct these weaknesses, however, some additional actions are needed; (10) for example, annual internal audits have not provided sufficient information to assess the effectiveness of NASA's export controls for the International Space Station Program; and (11) resulting reports of audits that were issued in 1997 and 1998 provide little detail and analyses beyond completing a required audit checklist.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a December 10, 1999, memorandum to Center Export Administrators, NASA provided interim guidance for the annual audit of the NASA Export Control Program for calendar year 1999. The memorandum provided guidance on auditor qualifications, selection, and audit content. It also included an audit module for use by the auditor. NASA headquarters is currently in the process of reviewing the centers' export control program audit reports for calendar year 1999.

    Recommendation: To enhance NASA's ability to oversee and implement its export controls of the International Space Station-related technologies, the Administrator, NASA, should ensure that center-based audits are completed with sufficient detail to enable the agency to identify weaknesses in NASA's export control procedures.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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