Why Does the US Regulate Exports?

The United States regulates “exports” of certain equipment, software and technology in furtherance of national security interests and some foreign policy objectives. Among the most important reasons for these controls are deterrence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to prevent transfer of sensitive and potentially dangerous technologies to supporters of international terrorism and other problematic end-users.

What is Governed by Export Controls?

Export Controls can apply to a wide range of research activities, regardless of the source of funding. Research projects involving the transfer of equipment and technology (including technical data and technological assistance) to foreign countries are potentially subject to export controls regulations.

Does a Physical Item Have to be Shipped Internationally for there to be an Export?

No.  The transfer or exchange of information about science and technology also can constitute an export that is potentially subject to export controls. In some cases, this transfer of information or technology to a foreign national is regulated even though it occurs inside the United States (i.e., a “deemed” export).

What Agencies Regulate Export Controls?

Exports are regulated primarily by three different federal agencies:

U.S. Department of Commerce - Bureau of Industry and Security
U.S. Department of State - Directorate of Defense Trade Controls
U.S. Department of Treasury - Office of Foreign Assets Controls

What Specific Activities are Implicated by Export Retrictions?

Export restrictions often impact research activity. For example, a license may be required in order to:

  • Take a laptop computer or GPS system containing controlled software into a restricted country.
  • Ship certain research equipment outside of the United States.
  • Make a payment (including honoraria, or “anything” of value) to someone in or from one of the OFAC/embargoed countries.
  • Collaborate with a foreign national from embargoed countries or release certain technology or technical information to a foreign national while outside of the United States.
  • Allow foreign nationals from restricted countries to participate in certain research projects at universities in the U.S. if the research falls outside the scope of the FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH exclusion.

Does that Mean All Research Involving Foreign Nations Requires an Export License?

No. The GOOD NEWS about export controls is that much of the research activity conducted at universities in the United States does come within the scope of the FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH exclusion. In addition, in many of the cases listed above, an EXCLUSION or license exception will be available in order to export without applying for a license.