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MAPPS Comments on Export Control Reform

Monday, July 6, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Beth Hawley
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MAPPS Recently sent the following commentary to the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls on Export Control Reform, and in particular, the ITAR Amendment—Category XII.

MAPPS is pleased to provide these comments in response to the May 5, 2015 Federal Register notice whereby  the Department of State, Directorate of Defense Controls (DDTC) solicited comments on the implementation of Export Control Reform (ECR) with respect to fire control, range finder, optical and guidance and control equipment.

MAPPS, the trade association of private sector geospatial firms is deeply concerned that unnecessary export control restrictions could hinder growth in the geospatial business sector.

Geospatial is essentially the surveying, mapping and geographic information business.  The Department of Labor included geospatial as one of just fourteen High Growth sectors of the U.S. economy workforce, projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries or where there are existing or emerging businesses being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new skills sets for workers to prepare workers to take advantage of new and increasing job opportunities in high-growth, high-demand, and economically vital sectors of the American economy.

It is widely accepted that 80 to 90 percent of government information has a geospatial component.

Of the available records on, over 90 percent of the data is geospatial.  Geospatial is a rapidly changing technology and engineering field.

A recent market study reported that the geospatial field is a $73 billion market that drives more than $1 trillion in economic activity and more than 500,000 American jobs are related to the collection, storage and dissemination of geospatial data, and another 5.3 million workers utilize such data. 

From natural resource management to infrastructure projects, and a variety of other applications such as E911 systems, precision agriculture, environmental protection, recreation, flood plain mapping, equitable assessment of local property taxes, emergency preparedness and response, the Census, geospatial data is being put to use in our everyday lives.  Millions of Americans now routinely use geospatial and GPS data in navigation systems, on-board vehicles and handheld devices. 

MAPPS is concerned the proposed rules place new controls on certain existing commercial geospatial systems and equipment products that fails to establish a “bright line” between the military (USML) and commercial (CCL) designations, particularly for imaging, GPS and LiDAR systems.  The proposed changes to USML Category XII could disadvantage our U.S. manufacturers and operators when competing for commercial applications against foreign competitors.

Such proposed revisions to Category XII(b) would result in the transfer of many commercial products to the USML that were previously not USML controlled.  These products were designed, and are predominately used, for commercial applications.  They were not designed for military use. 

The fact that such existing commercial geospatial systems may possess parameters or characteristics that provide a military advantage means that the proposed control of these commercial products would blur the “bright line”, rather than clarify. MAPPS believes the government and private sector would benefit from clearly specifying that such items are controlled in the USML only if they are particularly designed for military use. 

It is our understanding that the intent of the regulations is that items that are in normal commercial use and not specially designed for military use would not become subject to the USML.  At the same time, we recognize that such items may possess characteristics that could be used for military or intelligence applications.   We do not believe that the USML should control such items unless they have been specially designed for military use. 

Domestically, the U.S. government has embarked on a national LiDAR program, known as 3DEP, managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.  This civilian agency program, carried out by commercial professional service firms by contract to USGS, is an example of the societal benefits of LiDAR.  Please visit for information on this program and its civilian benefits.  Additionally, aerial imagery and GPS use for geodetic control survey are part of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), which has been a domestic, Federal, civil agency program since 1994.  MAPPS cautions against limits on the use of technologies for CCL in foreign markets, or as USML, when they are ubiquitous in the domestic civil/commercial market.  We believe such a designation would have serious, unintended and negative consequences for U.S. foreign policy and the economic well being of American companies in the export market.

Individual MAPPS member firms, including system manufacturers and service firms that utilize such systems, particularly when working on overseas projects, will be submitting specific comments with regard to their systems.  MAPPS respectfully urges the government’s careful consideration of these comments and cautions that jobs could be lost and business in exporting will be jeopardized if care is not taken with regard to the treatment of these geospatial systems.  This will not benefit U.S. national security, as such systems or will be obtained or deployed from our foreign competitors.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.


John M. Palatiello
MAPPS Executive Director