1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile

Opening Statement


Chairman, Committee on Science

Hearing: China: Dual Use Space Technology

June 25, 1998

Good morning. For the past few weeks, various House and Senate committees have held hearings to review reports that missile technology was transferred to China and that this transfer harmed U.S. national security. Over the course of those hearings, we’ve heard spirited debates about export controls, satellite waivers, the Administration’s China policy, and campaign contributions. Last Thursday, the House approved the creation of a special committee to investigate these issues.

This Committee held two days of hearings in 1988 on the Reagan Administration’s decision to allow the Chinese Long March vehicle into the commercial space launch market. This morning we are continuing the Science Committee’s oversight function as part of our responsibility to oversee legislation, regulation, and policies that affect the U.S. launch industry. We intend to focus on the dual-use nature of space technology and the implications of improved Chinese rocket capabilities on the U.S. launch industry. That is the purpose of this hearing. We are not here to review the merits of the Clinton Administration export control policies or engage in a debate about the differences between those policies and those of the President’s predecessors. Other Committees are doing that. We are here to try and shed a little more light on the space technologies involved and what kinds of space cooperation benefit China’s rocket capabilities.

We also need to understand the implications of those technologies. Much attention has been paid to how they can be used to improve the accuracy of ballistic missiles pointed at the United States. But the same technologies can be used to improve the capabilities of foreign space launch vehicles. That is of concern to this Committee, which has jurisdiction over policies and laws affecting the health of the U.S. space launch industry. We’ve invited one technical witness with a background in rocket design to help us understand the technologies involved and how technology can be transferred without a piece of hardware changing hands.

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the United States needs a healthy domestic launch industry. Our national security depends on being able to launch satellites into space. Our strategic missile forces benefit from an industry that has a diversified customer base and broad experience in rocket technologies. Our economic health is also now intertwined with a host of space technologies, such as communications satellites, weather satellites, remote sensing satellites, and space-based navigation systems. They all depend on reliable access to space. It is not in our national interest to adopt policies that make us more dependent on foreign entities for that access. Our economy also depends on the high-paying jobs in aerospace that designing, building, and launching rockets creates. Those jobs are no less important than jobs in the satellite industry.

This point gets lost in debates about export controls and satellite waivers. Yet, it is just as important. There are national security and economic competitiveness benefits that flow to the United States from a healthy launch industry that can exploit the synergy between commercial and national security uses of rockets. A policy that causes the U.S. to lose commercial market share will reduce those benefits to the United States and give them to some other country. We’ve invited two witnesses from the U.S. launch industry who can help explain the close relationship between commercial and military rocket technologies and how the United States benefits from a healthy launch industry.

We also need to consider the U.S.-Chinese relationship in space in general. The press reported that the Clinton Administration has been negotiating several space agreements that were to be concluded at the summit in Beijing. One such agreement involves cooperation in earth science and applications. While there can be scientific benefits from such cooperation, there are national security implications. For example, knowledge of the planet’s gravity map and the behavior of upper atmospheric winds helps improve the guidance of space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles. Cooperation in earth science may also lead to technology transfer that would improve the capabilities of Chinese spy satellites. The Administration reportedly proposed asking China to join the Missile Technology Control Regime, under which it pledges not to proliferate missile technology. However, joining the Missile Technology Control Regime would also entitle China to receive space launch technology from the United States. Since missile and space launch technology are nearly identical, this could be a double-edged sword. We’ve invited one witness who will help us understand how civil space technology can be used for military applications and the degree to which cooperation in ostensibly civil space activities may complicate the proliferation problem.

This morning we are here to learn something, not to pass judgment. We’re going to do our part to fill in some parts of the picture.