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Beyer Leads Opposition To Satellite Telecommunications Streamlining Act Over Space Situational Awareness Concerns

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), former Chair of the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and longtime proponent of clarifying agency roles in space situational awareness and orbital debris, today led opposition on the House floor to the Satellite Telecommunications Streamlining Act. This legislation, previously advanced by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, would grant unprecedented authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would allow the agency to issue expansive rules concerning space safety and orbital debris, with significant implications for America’s commercial space industry and U.S. leadership in space activities.

The legislation was offered under suspension of the rules, which means it will require two thirds support to pass. Beyer is the author of forthcoming legislation on space situational awareness, and a longtime leader on this important issue in space policy.

Rep. Beyer’s remarks as prepared follow:

“I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1338, the “Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act”—the SAT Streamlining Act. Mr. Speaker, if this bill were focused solely on regulating electromagnetic spectrum use and improving the spectrum licensing process in the United States, then this would be a very different speech. 

“Improving the Federal Communications Commission--FCC’s--licensing of spectrum is important and something I support. However, H.R. 1338 goes way beyond FCC’s spectrum mission.  It would provide unprecedented authority to the FCC to issue rules on “space safety and orbital debris”. 

Let me explain why this is a serious problem and cause for deep concern.

“Drafting such rules would only detract and divert attention and resources from FCC’s primary mission on assessing applications for spectrum use, actions the bill seeks to strengthen. Moreover, the FCC does not have sufficient expertise to issue appropriate rules on space safety or orbital debris.

“Further, Federal agencies engage in interagency coordination on orbital debris mitigation, based on scientific and technical research led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Rather than follow a cohesive and coordinated approach within the Federal government, H.R. 1338 would give authority to the FCC to do its own thing; to act unilaterally without participating in the interagency coordination that is necessary to prevent a fragmented government approach towards space activities. On something as important as space safety and orbital debris, this is a troubling thought.

“Let me be clear, the issue of space safety and orbital debris is a pressing concern and one that I am working on legislatively. The Administration and stakeholders are coalescing around the Department of Commerce as the lead agency on space safety and related orbital debris activities, in coordination with other Federal government agencies. Congress has appropriated funding for Commerce to advance civil space situational awareness and related orbital debris activities.

“This is a critical time for the U.S. commercial space industry.  Clear and predictable roles, responsibilities, and regulatory frameworks from the federal government are needed. Having the FCC—an agency established to assess, regulate, and license the use of spectrum—regulating space safety and orbital debris mitigation would duplicate efforts and cause confusion, including for our partners where the U.S. has led, internationally, on orbital debris mitigation guidelines.

“Rather that supporting the continuing growth and leadership of the U.S. in commercial space, H.R. 1338 risks undermining it. I urge my colleagues to VOTE NO on H.R. 1338, the SAT Streamlining Act.”