Overview of Export Control Laws

In general, the export control regulations cover four main types of University activities:

  1. transfers of controlled information, including technical data, to persons and entities outside the United States;
  2. shipment of controlled physical items, such as scientific equipment, that require export licenses from the United States to a foreign country;
  3. verbal, written, electronic, or visual disclosures of controlled scientific and technical information related to export controlled items to foreign nationals (“deemed exports”), even when it occurs within the United States; and
  4. travel to certain sanctioned or embargoed countries for purposes of teaching or performing research.

These requirements are not new.  The United States has imposed restrictions on certain kinds of information and items that are shipped out of the country since the 1940's.  These are the three relevant sets of legal requirements:

Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security - BIS

State Department Directorate of Defense Trade Controls - DDTC

Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control - OFAC

Export Administration Act

Arms Export Control Act

Trading with the Enemy Act, International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and others

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations Title 15

eCFR Title 15 Parts 700-799

ITAR - International Traffic in Arms Regulations

22 CFR Parts 120-130

Country-specific sanctions and regulations

Commerce Control List

eCFR Title 15 Part 738

U.S. Munitions List

List of Specially Designated Nationals

The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It is not an official legal edition of the CFR. The e-CFR is an editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments produced by the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Printing Office. The OFR updates the material in the e-CFR on a daily basis. The current update status appears at the top of all e-CFR web pages.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are implemented by the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).  These regulations apply to articles, services, and related technical data that are inherently military in nature, as determined by the State Department.  These “defense articles”, "defense services”, and related “technical data” are listed on the U.S. Munitions List (see Wikipedia's U.S. Munitions List (USML)).  Some articles and technologies that are not readily identifiable as inherently military in nature—for example, research satellites or small, research submersibles—are included on the USML.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) implements the economic and trade sanctions and, based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals, targets foreign countries, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, and those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The University typically encounters issues arising under the OFAC regulations when researchers engage in collaborations with foreign nationals overseas or seek to teach classes or perform research in foreign countries.

Penalties for Violations

In the event of a violation of U.S. export control law, both the University and the individuals involved in the violation may be liable. The exporter and the individual employees involved may be subject to severe administrative and civil sanctions as well as criminal penalties. For example, "knowing" violations of the EAR are punishable by a fine of up to five times the value of the exports involved, or $50,000, whichever is greater. "Willful" violations can result in penalties of up to $1 million per violation. Exports are subject to a strict liability standard, so even negligent exports can trigger fines of $10,000 to $120,000 per violation. In addition to fines, individuals may be imprisoned for intentional violations. Penalties can also include the denial of export privileges and debarment from contracting with the federal government. Almost all enforcement actions are public.

Additional Information:

eCFR Title 22 Foreign Relations
The Code of Federal Regulations Title 22, Foreign Relations; Chapter I, Department of State; Section 121.1, The U.S. Munitions List (General).

Council on Government Regulations The Council on Government Regulations (COGR) provides further analysis and interpretation on a wide spectrum of government regulations. A copy of COGR's  export control booklet is available on this website. 

U.S. Government -

The President's Export Control Reform Initiative

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