DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates is engaged in ongoing discussions with the US to find solutions on export control of technology and knowledge to help the UAE's nascent space program.

Mohammad Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency, told a small group in Dubai here Nov. 9 that the two nations have established a joint committee to find ways the UAE can still develop its knowledge base, despite restrictions under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export regime.

"We have a joint committee with [the] US, present with [the] UAE and [the] US government, talking about space and how to ease export control and how to build trust," Al Ahbabi said. "Because that problem is not one side. We understand the concerns, but also, we would like to educate people."

Traditionally, the US has carefully guarded its space secrets. However, the UAE is hoping to bring in a significant amount of space knowledge through local offsets from US companies.

Al Ahbabi's point, reiterated multiple times during his keynote address at a conference, hosted by Offsets 2000, — happening concurrently with the Dubai Airshow, — is that the UAE is looking to learn from the US in order to become "a global citizen."

"We also face some challenges, especially when it comes to knowledge and technology transfer," he said. "Today, if I went to acquire certain technology, some countries, — especially in [the] US, — the ITAR is limiting, not only for emerging space nation[s], but also for American industry as well, because I can't get this product somewhere else without ITAR, even if I want to engage with US-based companies."

The UAE has set an aggressive timeline for its Mission to Mars program, one thatwhich aims to have an Emeriti system on the planet by 2021. But the goal of the UAE's nascent space agency is wider than simply travelling to the stars, officials said at the conference.

"Going to Mars is not the [only] objective here," said Omran Sharaf, program manager for the Mission to Mars team, citing a "much bigger objective" of building up an interest in science and technology among local youth.

"There are more than 200 million youth in this region., Tthey have two options: Eeither join ISIS, or starve to death," Sharaf said. "We need to show them you can get your countries out of the situation you are in, and through that, we are trying to give them examples."

He also stressed the need to develop bring in scientific expertise from outside nations and inject it into local education, because "if you want to be compared to developed nations, you need to have an established science and technology sector."


Twitter: @AaronMehta

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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