U.S. Export Control Legislation and Authorities

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) is the cornerstone of U.S. munitions export control law. The Department of State implements this statute by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). All persons or entities that engage in the manufacture, export, or brokering of defense articles and services must be registered with the U.S. government. The ITAR sets out the requirements for licenses or other authorizations for specific exports of defense articles and services. The AECA requires the State Department to provide an annual and quarterly report of export authorizations to Congress. Certain proposed export approvals and reports of unauthorized re-transfers also require congressional notification.

The Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended, authorizes the Department of Commerce, in consultation with other appropriate agencies, to regulate the export or re-export of U.S.-origin dual-use goods, software, and technology. The Department of Commerce implements this authority through the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). In addition to export controls agreed in the multilateral regimes, the Department of Commerce also imposes certain export and re-export controls for foreign policy reasons, most notably against countries designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as state sponsors of international terrorism, as well as certain countries, entities and individuals subject to domestic unilateral or UN sanctions. Additionally, the Department of Commerce administers and enforces regulations that prohibit certain trade and transactions with certain countries, entities, and individuals by U.S. persons or from the United States under the Trading with the Enemy Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Various other U.S. agencies have licensing authority for different exports, for example:

  • Nuclear – Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Departments of Energy and Commerce
  • Trade embargoes & sanctions/Transactions – Department of the Treasury

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