Overview & Structure of U.S. Export Controls

For national security and foreign policy reasons, the United States maintains comprehensive trade controls on the export and re-export of U.S.-origin goods and technology to all designations around the world. The legal authority for these controls is authorized by a variety of laws, and administrated by several different government agencies, depending on the nature of the goods to be exported or the country of ultimate destination. Each Administering Agency will have its own interpreting regulations. The primary legal authorities and administering authorities1 for these controls are as follows:

  1. The Export Administration Act ("EAA") of 1979, as Amended (50 USC app. 2401-2420) (expired), as extended and continued in effect by executive order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701, et seq.). These controls relate to all goods and technology that are not subject to preemptive jurisdiction by another Agency or are not otherwise exempted from control under the EAA. The EAA is administrated by the Bureau of Industry & Security (formerly known as the Bureau of Export Administration or "BXA") through the Export Administration Regulations ("EAR") (15 CFR Part 732 through Part 774).
  2. Section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778). These controls relate to defense articles and defense services on the U.S. Munitions List and are administered by the Office of Defense Trade Controls, Department of State through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (22 CFR part 121).
  3. Trading with the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. app. section 1 et seq.), and International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. §1701, et seq.). These controls are administered by the Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC implements broad controls and embargoes transactions with certain foreign countries. These regulations include controls on exports and re-exports to certain specified countries, including Iran, Sudan, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea.
  4. While not a formal export control agency, the Bureau of Census is responsible for maintaining and implementing regulations related to the preparation and submission of export declarations. Export declarations are key to the enforcement of the U.S. export control system, and are mandatory, unless a specific exemption applies. Bureau of Census shares this information with BIS, ODTC, OFAC, and other regulatory and enforcement agencies. The U.S. Foreign Trade Statistics Regulations, or "FTSR" are found at 15 C.F.R. Part 30 et seq.


1. Other agencies responsible for export controls include the Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.