Export Compliance: What Does and Does Not Require Export Review, and Who Controls Which Exports?

What Requires Export Review?

It is important to know that exporting is not limited to simply transferring a document or piece of equipment to a foreign national. The range of activities that could potentially pose export-control concerns is quite broad. Examples include:

  • Any transfer to any person, either within or outside of the U.S., of commodities, technology, or software, by physical, electronic, oral, or visual means, with the knowledge or intent that the items will be shipped, transferred, or transmitted outside of the U.S.;
  • Disclosure of technical data to a foreign national, by physical, electronic, oral, or visual means, within or outside of the U.S. (disclosures to U.S. nationals representing foreign interests are not exports unless there is knowledge or reason to know that the technical data will be further disclosed to a foreign party);
  • Any transfer to a foreign embassy or affiliate;
  • Direct exports; Space Act agreements; Cooperative Research; Development Agreements; contracts; donations, sales, or transfers of surplus equipment;
  • International and domestic collaborations and technical exchange programs;
  • Publications, such as technical briefs and reports, conference papers, abstracts, and journal articles;
  • Written materials in general, from memos and letters to trip reports and work notes;
  • Presentations at domestic and foreign conferences and other public meetings;
  • Visits and assignments by foreign nationals to SAO;
  • Foreign travel by SAO or SAO-contractor employees;
  • Conversations with foreign nationals anywhere;
  • Specifications included in proposals or requests for quotations; and
  • Other types of communication such as telephone calls, faxes, e-mails, reports, plant/lab visits-U.S. and abroad, mailings, or the placement of SAO material on the World Wide Web.

Who Controls What Exports?

A number of government agencies have various responsibilities for export controls. Each exercises administrative control over specific types of technology or restricted trade. The following are those most relevant to SAO:

Department of State

The Department of State, Office of Defense Trade Controls(ODTC) administers the export of "defense articles and defense services" under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). In coordination with the Department of Defense, the State Department determines if an article or service is subject to export control based upon whether the item or technology:

  • (1) is inherently military in character, or
  • (2) was specially designed, modified, or engineered for military applications. If so, the item or technical information is placed on the U.S. Munitions List.

The US Munitions List (USML) includes such obvious items as firearms, ammunition, and explosives. It also includes all military vehicles (land, air, and sea); spacecraft (including nonmilitary); launch vehicles; military and space electronics; protective personnel equipment; guidance and control equipment and components; auxiliary equipment, and miscellaneous articles related to military equipment such as Category XV-Spacecraft Systems and Associated Equipment (of particular interest to SAO). Export of any item on the U.S. Munitions List requires specific authorization of the State Department.

SAO is registered with the Department of State to obtain necessary export/import licenses.

Department of Commerce

The Department of Commerce controls the export of all commodities, technologies, and software not regulated by another government agency. This is done through the Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which maintains an extensive, multi-volume manual of Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

Key to the EAR is the Commerce Control List (CCL). (Categories 6 [Lasers & Sensors] & 9 [Propulsion Systems, Space Vehicles] may be of particular interest to SAO). This is a section of the EAR that lists specific commodities and their related technologies and the countries to which they may or may not be exported, along with any special restrictions or exceptions that may apply. There can be confusing overlap between items on the Commerce Control List and items on the U.S. Munitions List. The SAO/ECO can help determine the appropriate controlling agency.

SAO is in the process of registering with the Department of Commerce to obtain necessary export/import licenses.


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