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Research Office

Controlling Regulations

There are three main government agencies that administer and enforce U.S. export laws and regulations. Additional agencies are responsible for subsets of export control.

Department of State

Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC)

The Bureau of Political Military Affairs' DDTC is the organization within the U.S. Department of State responsible for the export and temporary import of defense articles and services governed by 22 U.S.C. 2778 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) implements the AECA. Defense articles, services, and related technical data constitute the U.S. Munitions List (USML) specified in Part 121 of the ITAR.

Because of the inherent military/defense value of USML items, they are strictly controlled. With very limited exceptions, all “defense articles,” “defense services” and “technical data”, and commercial items modified or adapted for defense purposes, require an export license or other DDTC approval before they can be “exported” out of the U.S. or transferred or disclosed by a “U.S. person” to a “foreign person”. (See Appendix 2 – Abbreviations and Definitions)

Department of Commerce

Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

The Commerce Department’s BIS is responsible for responsible for regulating the export of most commercial items, often referred to as “dual-use” items. Dual use items are those which are predominantly used for commercial purposes but which have the potential for both commercial and military or proliferation applications.

BIS authority is provided under the US Export Administration ACT (EAA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Since the EAA lapsed in 2001, EAR authority has been continued by Executive Order under power granted under the IEEPA.

Relatively few exports of dual-use items require obtaining an export license from BIS prior to export. However, in certain situation involving national security, foreign policy, short-supply, nuclear non-proliferation, missile technology, chemical and biological weapons, regional stability, crime control, or terrorist concerns, a BIS license or other authorization is required.

Department of the Treasury

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Treasury Department’s OFAC administers a nd enforces the Foreign Assets Control Regulations (FACR), economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and other threats to national security, foreign policy, or economic interests of the United States. The OFAC acts under the IEEPA, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

Other U.S. Federal Government Agencies

A number of other agencies are responsible for administering limited export controls on certain items and transactions. Examples of these agencies and their areas of concern include:

  • Department of Justice – Anti-corruption
  • Security & Exchange Commission – Anti-corruption
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission – Nuclear equipment and materials
  • Department of Energy (nuclear technology and high-energy lasers)
  • Food and Drug Administration (pharmaceuticals and medical devices)