Federal Government Announces Study of U.S. Space Industry with Mandatory Private Sector Participation

By: Melissa Duffy , Robert Slack , Zohra Tejani , Michael A. Brown , Joshua D. Geffon , Joyce Tong Oelrich , Patrick V. Grilli , Morgan Sawchuk , Steven Levine

The Department of Commerce (Commerce), in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced that it was launching a comprehensive study of the U.S. Civil Space Industrial Base (CSIB).

To conduct the study, Commerce will issue mandatory surveys to hundreds of U.S. space companies and their suppliers, including commercial companies, defense contractors, federally funded research and development centers, universities and laboratories. The goal of the study is to identify and understand the overall health and competitiveness of the CSIB resulting from a variety of factors, including:

  • Trends in mergers and acquisitions;
  • Advances in emerging technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, quantum computing, additive manufacturing, etc.);
  • Supply chain deficiencies and disruptions related to diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages (DMSMS);
  • Foreign sourcing and dependencies;
  • Cybersecurity incidents;
  • Workforce/STEM practices;
  • U.S. federal acquisition constraints and reforms;
  • Impacts of export controls;
  • Critical minerals and materials; and
  • COVID-19 pandemic impact.

U.S. policymakers will use the data gathered by the study to execute the civil space aspects of the 2020 National Space Policy (NSP) and other space-related policies.

Companies active in the U.S. space sector, including suppliers and subcontractors in related industries, should anticipate receiving requests from Commerce’s Office of Technology Evaluation (OTE), part of the Bureau of Industry and Security. In its notice, Commerce indicated that data collection will focus on companies that directly and indirectly supply NASA and NOAA systems and subsystems. Data provided in response to the surveys will be treated as confidential by Commerce and is not subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The final report will also aggregate all data to protect the identity and confidential business information of respondents. That said, while completing the survey, companies should be mindful of responses that may relate to existing compliance requirements under grants or contracts funded by the U.S. government, as well as export compliance obligations.

Participation in the study is mandatory, which means that companies must respond to survey requests from Commerce and provide full and accurate responses to the survey questions. Failure to comply can result in the issuance of a subpoena or judicial order to comply. Continued willful failure to comply with data requests can result in financial penalties and up to a year of jail time.

Fenwick’s Trade & National Security and Government Contracts teams are ready to assist in responding to survey requests and to provide support to companies seeking to comprehend and respond to the business, policy and regulatory challenges facing the space industry.


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