W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 2.14

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VEs’ Universe

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. Aren’t the VECs and VEs essentially “acting as agents” of the FCC when they create question pools and administer license exams?  

A. That exact terminology does not appear in Part 97, but some hams may find it sufficiently descriptive for their purposes. It is, however, our Section 97.507 preparing VEs and our Section 97.509 administering VEs who are supposed to be volunteering their services to the government. Our Section 97.519 VECs are supposed to be coordinating our Section 97.509 administering VEs’ examination sessions and maintaining the Section 97.523 pools of questions that our Section 97.507 preparing VEs are supposed to be writing. This outsourcing of FCC duties is specifically authorized by SEC.4 of the Communications Act. It stipulates, however, (F) Any person who provides services under this paragraph shall not be considered, by reason, of having provided such services, a Federal employee.

   The rules implementing the statute were developed through the normal administrative rulemaking process.

Q. I find no mention in Part 97 of any geographic limitation on where VE exams may be held. Is there any reason why someone can't offer FCC VE exams to anyone anywhere that is convenient for all involved?

A. No, there is no reason as long that “someone” is a CVET (certifying VE trio) coordinated by a Section 97.519 VEC and each examinee provides a suitable Section 97.23 mailing address. The examinees, moreover, do not have to be U.S. citizens. Nor is there any minimum age requirement for examinees. There also no age requirement for the Section 97.507 preparing VEs. Each Section 97.509 administering VE, however, must be at least 18 years of age.

Q. What is the statutory authority for the amateur radio service via the VE system to administer license exams in areas of the world not regulated by the FCC? 

A. It is the same authority cited above. SEC.4 of the Communications Act does not place territorial limits on where it is that our regulator may accept and employ the voluntary and uncompensated services of any individual who holds an amateur station operator license for purposes of preparing or administering any examination for an amateur station operator license.

Q. What is the statutory authority for a VEC to coordinate exams sessions administered in areas not regulated by the FCC?

A. It is the same authority cited above. If in doubt, you should check with the powers that be in the foreign countries of interest to determine if there is any objection to examinations for FCC-issued amateur service licenses being prepared, administered, and coordinated in said countries.  

Q. When an exam session is conducted in an area not regulated by the FCC, do the FCC rules apply? 

A. If it is a Section 97.501 written examination such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an FCC amateur service licensee, the answer is yes. The rules for our qualifying examining systems apply regardless of where the examination for a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license is prepared, administered, or coordinated.

Q. Because the rules do not explicitly exclude a non-US citizen from being a VE, is it also safe to say that non-US citizens who have a license from their home country that is equivalent to the General Class license or higher and are otherwise qualified, may be accredited by a VEC and administer exams based on their license equivalency? 

A. Our VECs should not be accrediting VEs based upon on any license equivalency.  Accreditation as either a Section 97.507 preparing VE or as a Section 97.509 administering VE should only go to a person named in an amateur operator/primary license station grant on the ULS consolidated licensee database to be the control operator of an amateur station. It contains license grants to U.S. citizens as well as to aliens who have qualified for the grant without distinction.

   Section 97.525(b), moreover, require each VEC to seek a broad representation of amateur operators to be VEs  No VEC may discriminate in accrediting VEs on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin; nor on the basis of membership (or lack thereof) in an amateur service organization; nor on the basis of the person accepting or declining to accept reimbursement.

   If the requirements for foreign amateur service licenses truly are as similar to our VEs’ examinations as our reciprocal operating advocates claim, an alien should pass our VEs’ examinations effortlessly. 

Q. Could non-U.S. citizens in places where the FCC is not the regulator, with appropriate FCC licenses, administer examinations by observing electronic images of examinees in the United States who are U.S. citizens? 

A. It could be possible. Our Section 97.509 administering VEs are simply required to observe the examinee throughout the entire examination. Observing nominally means to see, watch, or notice; conform to; celebrate; or remark.

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September 19, 2016

Supersedes all prior editions