Export Control Brief

Export control regulations are federal laws that prohibit the unlicensed export of certain commodities or information for reasons of national security, foreign policy, short-supply, regional sustainability, crime control, or terrorist concerns. Most export transactions do not require specific approval from the United States government. However, certain export transactions require legal permissions called a license prior to export. Export controls usually arise from one or more of the following reasons:

  • the nature of the export has actual or potential military applications or economic protection issues;
  • government concerns about the destination country, organization, or individual; and
  • government concerns about the declared or suspected end use or the end user of the export.

What is an Export?

An export is any oral, written, electronic, or visual disclosure, shipment, transfer, or transmission of commodities, technology, information, technical data, assistance, or software codes to:

  • anyone outside the U.S., including a U.S. citizen,
  • a non-U.S. individual where ever they are (deemed export),
  • a foreign embassy or affiliate.

Agencies Responsible for Export Control Oversight

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. OFAC acts under Presidential wartime and national emergency powers, as well as the authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze foreign assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is a U.S. Department of Commerce agency charged with advancing U.S. national security, foreign policy, and economic interests. Specifically, it is responsible for implementing and enforcing the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which regulate the export and re-export of most commercial items. These items are generally known as "dual use" commodities and have both commercial and military or proliferation application.

Defense Trade Controls

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations is charged with controlling the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List. It has among it primary missions: adjudicating license applications for export of defense articles and services handling matters related to defense trade compliance and enforcement; and providing reports to Congress and the public on defense trade.

Photograph Credit: MT Mastera 2007, photograph, Wikipedia, Germany, viewed 29 October 2015, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mastera_20JUN07_p06.JPG.