NASA, ITAR, and the Post-Apollo Negotiations

The extensive, blow-by-blow account of the in-house debates over European participation in the post-Apollo program in 1970-1971 (chapters 4-6) demon­strated the shifting perceptions of where the boundary lay between knowledge sharing and knowledge denial. So did the simultaneous debate over upgrad­ing Thor-Delta technology acquired by Japan (chapter 10). Indeed the Nixon administration of the early 1970s is noteworthy for the determination of White House staffers Peter Flanigan and Tom Whitehead, with the support of science adviser Ed David, to rein in what they saw as NASA’s profligate attitude to the sharing of knowledge that might undermine national military and/or economic security. Their concerns were reinforced by Bass’s brief mentioned earlier, which was forwarded to them amid negotiations over European participation in post – Apollo. The legal counselor argued that although the technologies of interest to NASA’s program were largely regulated via the Munitions Controls List, exports of data or articles by government agencies, including NASA, were “specifically exempt from the provisions of the Mutual Security Act and the ITAR.” What is more that exemption was extended by the ITAR when the export was in “fur­therance of a contract with an agency of the U. S. Government or a contract between an agency of the U. S. Government and foreign persons.”6 In short, according to Bass, in 1970 NASA and its contractors (like the Jet Propulsion

Laboratory in Pasadena) did not need to seek a license or other written authori­zation from the Department of State to export items on the MCL.

Flanigan and Whitehead were appalled and demanded that Ed David “develop a policy for the transfer of technology developed by NASA.”7 Bass’s report con­firmed for Flanigan that, as things stood, “NASA had no policy on keeping pro­prietary technical information developed by it available only to U. S. citizens.” NASA’s new administrator Jim Fletcher agreed that a new policy was needed to stop NASA “both by its charter and its history” from continuing “to make all its technological developments available nationally and internationally.”8 In the debate that ensued over the next six months Europe found its participation in the post-Apollo program reduced to building a module that fitted in the shuttle’s cargo bay, and that restricted transnational knowledge flows to the minimum required for mission success. Japan’s access to Thor-Delta technology was also severely restricted.