Overview of US Export Control and Sanctions Laws and Regulations

AuthorJoelle Laszlo and Marques O. Peterson
Chapter 5
Overview of US Export Control and Sanctions Laws and Regulations
Joelle Laszlo and Marques O. Peterson
I. Executive Summary
The United States maintains two primary export control regimes, which have a
substantial impact on many US government contractors. The first, which is applicable to most
military and intelligence-related items, is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)
administered by the Department of State. The second, which has applicability to dual-use and a
limited number of lower-level military items, is the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)
administered by the Department of Commerce. Niche export control regimes, maintained by the
US Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Food and Drug
Administration, are beyond the scope of this chapter. Both primary US export control regimes
impose a variety of restrictions on certain actions and activities, establish licensing requirements,
and prohibit certain exports and re-exports by US and foreign persons and companies. Penalties
for violations of the export control laws and regulations include administrative, civil, and
criminal fines, imprisonment, and denial of export privileges.
The United States also has an established economic and trade sanctions regime that
furthers US foreign policy and national security goals, as well as multilateral determinations of
the UN. The Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Department of Treasury administers
these economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists,
international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy, or
economy of the United States. Like export control laws, US economic and trade sanctions have
broad applicability and prohibit or highly regulate certain transactions by US persons, US
companies and their foreign affiliates overseas, as well as in certain instances wholl y foreign
companies. Penalties for violations of economic sanctions laws and regulations can be
This chapter provides an overview of export controls and economic sanctions laws and
regulations administered and enforced by the United States, recognizing that this is a fast-moving
area subject to frequent change, particularly in the economic sanctions arena.
II. US Primary Export Control Legal Regimes
A. US Export Controls on Military Goods and Technology
1. Activities Controlled under the ITAR
The ITAR restricts the export, re-export, and retransfer of “defense articles” and “defense
services.”1 In many (if not most) cases, under the ITAR a US entity seeking to export defense
articles, defense services, or technical data is required to obtain a license or other authorization
before the transaction and to maintain certain records associated with the transaction. ITAR
licenses and authorizations may not be possible for certain countries, as the United States
maintains arms embargoes or policies of denial with respect to a number of countries (and
nationals of those countries).2
The items subject to the ITAR’s controls are contained in the United States Munitions
List (USML). 3 The USML is a twenty-one category compilation of descriptive information
regarding certain “military” items (e.g., “Coast Guard Cutters,” “attack helicopters”) and other
items identified by their characteristics, functions, or being specifically designed, developed
modified, adapted, or configured for military purposes. (e.g., “fully automatic firearms to .50
caliber inclusive [12.7 mm],” “night vision or infrared cameras [e.g., camera core] specifically

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