Extending NASA's Exemption from the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act

Extending NASA’s Exemption from the Iran, North
Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act
Updated October 1, 2008
Carl Behrens
Specialist in Energy Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Mary Beth Nikitin
Analyst in Nonproliferation
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division

Extending NASA’s Exemption from the Iran, North
Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act
The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (INA) was enacted to help stop foreign
transfers to Iran of weapons of mass destruction, missile technology, and advanced
conventional weapons technology, particularly from Russia. Section 6 of the INA
banned U.S. payments to Russia in connection with the International Space Station
(ISS) unless the U.S. President determined that Russia was taking steps to prevent
such proliferation. When the President in 2004 announced that the Space Shuttle
would be retired in 2010, the Russian Soyuz became the only vehicle available after
that date to transport astronauts to and from the ISS. In 2005 Congress amended INA
to exempt Soyuz flights to the ISS from the Section 6 ban through 2011. It also
extended the provisions to Syria and North Korea, and renamed it the Iran, North
Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA).
NASA has asked Congress in 2008 to extend the exemption for the life of the
ISS, or until U.S. crew transport vehicles become operational. As in 2005, an
exemption would be needed before payments could be made to Russia since the
President has not made a determination pursuant to Section 6(b) of the INKSNA
regarding Russian nonproliferation policy or proliferation activities to Iran, North
Korea or Syria.
Since 2005, Russia has stepped up cooperation with the United States and
countries over Iran’s nuclear program. President Bush has praised Russian President
Putin for his “leadership” in offering a solution to the Iranian nuclear negotiations.
However, Russian military actions in the Republic of Georgia in August 2008 put
into question congressional support to waive the INKSNA requirement. The waiver
authority was nevertheless extended until July 1, 2016, in H.R. 2638, The
Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of
2009. This bill was passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President on
September 30 (P.L. 110-329).

In troduction ......................................................1
The International Space Station (ISS) and Nonproliferation.............1
INA Origins..................................................2
INA’s Section 6 and the ISS.....................................3
Amending the INA: P.L. 109-112.....................................3
Passage of P.L. 109-112.........................................4
Current Plans for the ISS............................................5
Post-Shuttle Transport Options to the ISS...........................6
Nonproliferation Issues Involving Extending INKSNA Exemption...........6

Extending NASA’s Exemption from the Iran,
North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act
The United States has grave concerns about the proliferation threat posed by
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, ballistic missiles, and
advanced conventional weapons. The United States has passed laws and used
sanctions to deter countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea from providing1
related technologies to Iran. The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (INA, P.L.
106-178) added two new provisions to the existing laws: it widened some of the
sanctions applicable to foreign persons, and, in Section 6, contained a ban on U.S.
government payments to Russia in connection with the International Space Station
unless the U.S. president makes a determination that Russia is taking steps to prevent
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and ballistic and cruise
missiles, to Iran. This provision raised difficulties regarding U.S. access to the
International Space Station when President Bush in 2001 cancelled NASA’s planned
Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), which was to act as a “lifeboat” for the astronauts on
the ISS, leaving them dependent on the Soyuz. The President’s announcement in
2004 that the space shuttle fleet would be retired in 2010 further increased that
The International Space Station (ISS) and Nonproliferation
The International Space Station (ISS) is a research laboratory in space being
built as a U.S.-led international partnership. Long-duration “Expedition” crews
composed of Russian and American astronauts have occupied the ISS since
November 2000, rotating on 4-6 month schedules.2
Europe, Canada, and Japan became partners in NASA’s space station program
in 1988. The United States invited Russia to join in 1993, motivated in part by
nonproliferation concerns. Through the “Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission,” the
Clinton Administration sought to encourage Russia to abide by the Missile
Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to stop sales of ballistic missile technology.
On September 2, 1993, Vice President Gore announced that Russia would join the
space station program and that Russia had agreed to abide by the MTCR (which it
would join formally in 1995). The United States agreed to pay Russia $400 million

1 For details see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by
Kenneth Katzman.
2 For details see CRS Report RL33568, The International Space Station and the Space
Shuttle, by Carl E. Behrens.

for space station cooperation. On October 6, 2003, White House Science Adviser
John Gibbons told a congressional subcommittee that the initiative “fits into the
context of a much larger partnership with Russia,” adding that the negotiations
“produced a key understanding that Russia is committed to adhere to the guidelines”
of the MTCR.3 Clinton Administration officials reiterated this linkage during the
mid-to-late 1990s.
INA Origins
While U.S. cooperative programs with Russia were expanding, it also became
clear that Russia was a source of sensitive technology to Iran. In 1995, Russia signed
an agreement with Iran to finish construction of the Bushehr nuclear power reactor,
a transaction worth $800 million or more. In 1996, reports surfaced of Russian
entities providing ballistic missile assistance to Iran, including training; testing and
laser equipment; materials; guidance, rocket engine, and fuel technology; machine
tools; and maintenance manuals.4 Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet
testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 1998 that Iran was further
along in its ballistic missile program than previously estimated because of Russian
help.5 The “Rumsfeld Commission” on the ballistic missile threat concluded in 1998
that “Russian assistance has greatly accelerated Iran’s ballistic missile program.”6
The report estimated that Iran could have an ICBM capability within five years of a
decision to proceed.
The 105th Congress responded with H.R. 2709, the Iran Missile Proliferation
Sanctions Act. Passed by overwhelming margins, the bill required the United States
to impose sanctions against countries that proliferated ballistic missile technology to
Iran. President Clinton vetoed the bill on June 23, 1998, objecting to low evidentiary
thresholds and mandatory sanctions. He forestalled an attempt to override his veto
by imposing sanctions on seven Russian entities that Moscow began to investigate
in mid-July for alleged illegal exports to Iran. The sanctions were imposed under
Executive Order 13094, which expanded the President’s authority to ban U.S. trade
with, aid to, and procurement from foreign entities assisting WMD programs in Iran
or elsewhere.
Iran conducted the first test flight of its medium-range Shahab-3 missile that
summer, however, and reports of Russian assistance persisted. On May 20, 1999,
House International Relations Committee Chairman Gilman introduced H.R. 1883,
the Iran Nonproliferation Act, covering ballistic missiles, WMD, and advanced

3 House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Space. U.S.-
Russian Cooperation in the Space Station Program: Parts I and II. Hearing, October 6, 14,

1993, p. 45.

4 For details see CRS Report RL30551, Iran: Arms and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Suppliers, by Kenneth Katzman.
5 Available at [http://www.cia.gov/cia/public_affairs/speeches/1998/dci_speech_


6 Executive Summary of the Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat
to the United States. [http://www.house.gov/hasc/testimony/105thcongress/BMThreat.htm].

conventional weapons. According to the committee’s report, the bill was “designed
to give the Administration additional tools with which to address the problem and the
countries that are transferring dangerous weapons technology to Iran powerful new
reasons to stop proliferating.... In addition, it seeks to create new incentives for the
Russian Space Agency to cooperate in efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons
technology to Iran.”7 The bill allowed sanctions, but they were not mandatory as in
the previous legislation. The House and Senate each passed the INA unanimously,
and it was signed into law on March 14, 2000 (P.L. 106-178).
INA’s Section 6 and the ISS
Section 6 of the INA concerns payments by the U.S. Government to Russia in
connection with the ISS. On July 29, 1999, during markup of Section 6 by the House
Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Science Committee
Chairman James Sensenbrenner explained that “Earlier this year, there were
publications of the fact that entities of the Russian Space Agency were violating the
MTCR. That’s why there is Section 6 in this bill.”8
From 1994 to 1998, NASA had paid Russia approximately $800 million through
several contracts for space station-related activities. Those payments ended because
Section 6 prohibits the U.S. government from making payments in connection with
ISS to the Russian space agency, organizations or entities under its control, or any
other element of the Russian government, after January 1, 1999. Exceptions are
made for payments needed to prevent imminent loss of life by or grievous injury to
individuals aboard ISS (the “crew safety” exception), and for various other payments.
The prohibition may be lifted if the President makes a determination that Russia’s
policy was to oppose proliferation to Iran, that Russia was demonstrating a sustained
commitment to seek out and prevent the transfer of WMD and missile systems to
Iran, and that neither the Russian space agency nor any entity reporting to it had made
such transfers for at least one year prior to such determination. Neither President
Clinton nor President Bush has made such a determination.
Amending the INA: P.L. 109-112
On January 14, 2004, President Bush made a major space policy address
directing NASA to focus its activities on returning humans to the Moon and
eventually sending them to Mars. Inspired in part by the destruction of the space
shuttle Columbia the previous year, his “Vision for Space Exploration” included
retiring the space shuttle in 2010. The President said the United States would fulfill
its commitments to its space station partners to finish construction of the ISS, for
which the shuttle was the only vehicle capable.

7 H.Rept. 106-315, Part 1, p. 8.
8 House Committee on Science. Markups of H.R. 356, H.R. 1883, H.R. 2607, and H.R.

2767. July 29, September 9, and November 3, 1999, p. 44.

At the time President Bush made his “Vision” speech, the space shuttle fleet was
shut down, while a review of the Columbia disaster determined the cause and
necessary safety measures to be taken. Transporting astronauts to and from the ISS
was carried out only in Russian Soyuz space vehicles until the shuttle Discovery
returned to flight in July 2005. In addition, the cancellation of NASA’s planned
CRV left the ISS dependent on the Soyuz as a “lifeboat” for return of crew members
in case of an emergency, since the shuttle could not be permanently attached to the
ISS because of power demands. Russia expected to be paid for the Soyuz lifeboat
service beginning in 2006. Retirement of the shuttle in 2010 would leave the United
States without capability to transport astronauts to the ISS until a new vehicle is
developed (as contemplated for the Moon/Mars mission). Transport to and from the
ISS will again have to rely on Soyuz in the interim.
Because of these developments, NASA applied to the Congress for an
exemption from the INA that would allow it to contract with Russian space entities
for use of the Soyuz for ISS missions. The response was the Iran Nonproliferation
Amendments Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-112).
Passage of P.L. 109-112
Since the President had not made the required determination under Section 6(b)
of the INA, an amendment was needed to continue American access to the ISS.
Senator Lugar introduced the amendment as S. 1713, the Iran Nonproliferation
Amendments Act of 2005. A debate in Congress ensued, with critics questioning
whether exempting payments for the ISS would encourage Russia to continue alleged
proliferation activity. Supporters of the amendment argued that the exemption was
strict enough to only allow for ISS-related expenses for a temporary period of time
and would not impact nonproliferation policy.9
P.L. 109-112, passed on November 22, 2005, gives an exemption to the
nonproliferation certification requirement for U.S. government payments made prior
to January 1, 2012, related to the ISS. As part of the amendment, the House applied
the nonproliferation penalties to such trade with Syria as well as Iran, and the act was
renamed the Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act. This addition was reportedly to
strengthen and extend the nonproliferation aspects of the law to counterbalance the
weakening of the nonproliferation provisions vis a vis Russia.10 The Amendment
directs the President to submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the
House International Relations Committee a report that identifies each Russian entity
or person to whom the United States has, since the enactment of the INA in 2005,
made a cash or in-kind payment under the Agreement Concerning Cooperation on the
Civil International Space Station, and specifies the content of the report.

9 See Guy Gugliotta, “NASA Seeks Clearance to Buy Russian Technology,” The
Washington Post, September 16, 2005. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2005/09/15/AR2005091502045.html ]
10 William Huntington, “Congress Amends Nonproliferation Act,” Arms Control Today,
December 2005. [http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_12/Dec-NonproAct.asp]

A further amendment, P.L. 109-353 of October 13, 2006, added North Korea
to the act. The act is now known as the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation
Current Plans for the ISS
Following President Bush’s “Vision” plan, NASA has begun designing
spacecraft for resuming flights to the Moon, and has indicated that such vehicles
would also be available for missions to the ISS. It has also continued flights of the
space shuttle to the ISS, and plans enough flights to finish the ISS before the shuttle
is retired in 2010.
Under the exemption provided in P.L. 109-112, NASA has also contracted with
Russian space entities to continue astronaut flights to and from the ISS. However,
the exemption runs out in 2012. On April 11, 2008, NASA Administrator Michael
Griffin submitted a proposed amendment to INKSNA that would extend the
exemption for Soyuz flights for the life of the ISS, or until the Moon flight vehicle,
or a commercial crew transport vehicle, is fully operational. The exemption would11
not be extended for the Russian Progress cargo vehicle. In a letter to Chairman
Udall of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Committee on Science and
Technology, and to Senator Biden, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations, Griffin said that fabrication of Soyuz vehicles requires 36 months, so that
NASA must contract with Russian entities in 2008 for vehicles to be available in
2012. Extension of the INKSNA exemptions would have to be enacted before such
contracting could take place.
On June 9, Senator Biden introduced by request S. 3103, the International Space
Station Payments Act of 2008, incorporating the measures requested by NASA. On
September 23, the bill was reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On July 24 the House Foreign Affairs and Science and Technology Committees
reported by voice vote H.R. 6574, the United States-Russian Federation Nuclear
Cooperation Agreement Act of 2008. Title III of H.R. 6574, as reported, would
extend exemption of payments until July 1, 2016, or until a U.S. flight vehicle is
operational. Like S. 3103, it would not have extended payments for Progress
vehicles. The U.S.-Russian civilian nuclear cooperation agreement was withdrawn
from congressional consideration by the President on September 8, 2008.
On September 25, Representative Tom Feeney introduced bill H.R. 7062, which
was referred to the House Foreign Affairs and House Science and Technology
Committees. This bill contains provisions that authorize extraordinary payments to
the Russian space agency for use of the Soyuz before July 1, 2016, notwithstanding
the INKSNA restrictions.

11 [http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2008/Space/


The waiver provisions are included in H.R. 2638, The Consolidated Security,
Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 110-329).
Section 125 of the Act amends P.L. 106-178 to set the date of expiration for waiver
authority to July 1, 2016.
Post-Shuttle Transport Options to the ISS
Continued flights of the space shuttle have been necessary to transport a number
of massive components to complete construction of the ISS. The shuttle has also
been the main means of carrying and returning astronauts to and from the ISS,
although the Russian Soyuz craft has also transported some “Expedition Team”
members. In addition, a Soyuz has been attached continuously to the ISS as a
“lifeboat” to return ISS astronauts in case of an emergency in the space station. This
is a function that the space shuttle cannot fulfil even while it is still operating,
because it can only stay aloft for a limited time because of power needs.
After the shuttle retires, only the Soyuz will be available for transporting
astronauts to and from the ISS until NASA develops new crew and cargo vessels as
part of the “Vision” to return to the Moon, now scheduled for 2015 or 2016.
In addition to crews, supplies and replacements for ISS components will need
transport after the shuttle is retired. The Russian Progress vehicle has been used in
the past, and would remain available, but the amendment requested by NASA would
not include contracting for the Progress in the exemption extension. NASA has been
investing in efforts by private industry to develop and produce transport vehicles that
can take equipment and eventually crews to and from the ISS. This Commercial
Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is still under development.
Another option under development is the European Space Agency’s Automated
Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the first of which was launched March 9, 2008, and carried
out docking demonstrations with the ISS in April. Four more ATV’s are planned for
construction. Japan expects to follow in 2009 with launch of its H-II Transfer
Vehicle (HTV). Unlike the space shuttle, but like Soyuz and Progress, neither the
ATV or the HTV is a reusable vehicle.
Depending on the development of these options, some use of the Russian
Progress vehicle may be necessary for transporting U.S. equipment and supplies to
the ISS. Contracting such services would also probably require exemption from the
Nonproliferation Issues Involving Extending
INKSNA Exemption
As in 2005, an amendment would be needed before payments could be made to
Russia since the President has not made a determination pursuant to Section 6(b) of
the INKSNA regarding Russian nonproliferation policy or proliferation activities to
Iran, North Korea or Syria. This is widely believed to be because the President would
be unable to certify an absence of proliferation activities by Russian entities to these

countries. The 2006 Director of National Intelligence report to Congress on WMD
Acquisition says that “Russian entities have supplied a variety of ballistic missile-
related goods and technical know-how to China, Iran, India, and North Korea. Iran’s
earlier success in gaining technology and materials from Russian entities and
continuing assistance by such entities, probably supports Iranian efforts to develop
new longer-range missiles and increases Tehran’s self-sufficiency in missile
In the past five years, after details about Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities
came to light, Russia has stepped up cooperation with the United States and other
countries negotiating over Iran’s nuclear program. Russia has insisted on IAEA
safeguards on any transfers to Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor at Bushehr and has
delivered fuel to Bushehr beginning in December 2007, on condition that the
resulting spent fuel will be returned to Russia. Russia has also invited Iran to
participate in its newly established international uranium enrichment center at
Angarsk, as an alternative to an indigenous Iranian enrichment capability. The Bush
administration has supported this approach and since 2006 no longer objects to
Russia’s building the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. President Bush, most
recently at the April 2008 summit in Sochi, has praised Russian President Putin for
his “leadership” in offering a solution to the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Russia has
been only reluctantly supportive of U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing
penalties, preferring a primarily diplomatic solution to the crisis.

12 Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons
of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January to 31 December

2006, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. [http://www.dni.gov/reports/

Acquisition_T echnol ogy_Report_030308.pdf]