Export Controls Overview

The United States government regulates the transfer of certain goods, technology, and technical data considered to be strategically important to the U.S. Export control laws are a complex set of federal regulations designed to protect U.S. national security; prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; further U.S. foreign policy including the support of international agreements, human rights, and regional stability; and maintain U.S. economic competitiveness. Export control regulations govern how information, technologies, and commodities can be transmitted overseas to anyone, including U.S. citizens, or foreign nationals physically present in the U.S.

Of even greater importance to the university, export controls have the potential to severely limit the research opportunities of university faculty and their students and staff, as well as to prevent international collaboration in certain research areas. Non-compliance with export controls can result in severe monetary and criminal penalties against both an individual as well as the university and can result in the loss of research contracts, governmental funding, and the ability to export items.


The Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury are the primary agencies charged with the implementation and enforcement of export regulations.  Each of the Departments are responsible for different areas of exports though there are times when jurisdiction may overlap.

Department of State (DoS)

The DoS Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) administers the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The ITAR controls the export of defense articles and related technical data and defense services that are controlled for military purposes, which are enumerated on the United States Munitions List (USML).

Department of Commerce (USDOC)

The USDOC Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) administers the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The EAR controls the export of “dual-use” items, which are items that have civilian uses, but which may also have a military or other strategic application. These items are classified on the Commerce Control List (CCL).

Department of Treasury (USDT)

The USDT Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Many of the sanctions are based on the United Nations and other international mandates. Sanctions are country/program-specific and are subject to frequent change based on the changing geopolitical landscape.

More information, see Regulations

Universities in the U.S., including UAF, have a long tradition of inventing and developing leading-edge technologies that are important for national security and economic competitiveness as well as for educating and training scholars from around the world.  Most basic research conducted at the university is not subject to export controls under what is referred to as the "Fundamental Research Exclusion" (or "FRE"). Fundamental research is basic or applied research in science and/or engineering at an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. resulting in information that is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community.

Research in the following areas is most likely to be affected by export controls:

  • Military and Defense Articles and Services
  • Dual Use Technologies (technologies with both military and commercial applications)
  • Nuclear Technology
  • Information Security/Encryption
  • Laser and Directed Energy Systems
  • Rocket Systems
  • High Performance Computing
  • Marine Technology
  • Chemical or Biological Weapons
  • Space Technology and Satellites
  • Robotics
  • Propulsion System and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems
  • Select Agents and Toxins
 More information, see Export Controls & Research

Traveling overseas with high tech equipment, confidential, unpublished, or proprietary information or data – Traveling with certain types of high tech equipment including but not limited to advanced GPS units, scientific equipment, or with controlled, proprietary or unpublished data in any format may require an export license depending on your travel destination. See International Travel for more information.

Traveling with laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones and other personal equipment – Laptop computers, web-enabled cell phones, and other electronics containing encryption hardware or software and/or proprietary software can require an export license to certain destinations. In general, an export license will be required to take any items to or through any U.S. sanctioned country (e.g., Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea).

Purchasing, Procuring or Receiving Export Controlled items, materials, or software – UAF personnel that wish to purchase or receive technology for use in research or other academic activities should be aware that most technology is subject to U.S. export controls. If technology is not controlled under the ITAR, it is controlled under the EAR. Vendors and manufacturers are not required by law to provide export control classification information to the purchaser. In most instances, such information must be requested by the purchaser. UAF personnel should request details directly from the vendor or manufacturer regarding the classification of technology they intend to purchase, or they may request assistance from the ECO in obtaining this information. In cases where a vendor or manufacturer explicitly references “export controls” in purchase documents, UAF personnel must follow up and request USML or ECCN details or request that the ECO do so.

Use of 3rd Party Export Controlled Technology or Information – University activities involving the use of export controlled information, items, or technology received from outside the university are not protected under the Fundamental Research Exclusion and all research involving the use of export restricted technology is subject to all export controls. For help in determining export control issues, please contact ORI.

Sponsored research containing contractual restrictions on publication or dissemination – The vast majority of research done at the university is shielded from export controls under the Fundamental Research Exclusion. However, this protection is lost whenever the university or the researcher agrees to allow any restrictions on the publication, dissemination, or access to the research by foreign nationals. Read more about the "Process for the Review of Sponsored-Provided Documents" on OGCA's website regarding proposals. 

Shipping or Taking Items Overseas – University activities that involve the transfer of project information, equipment, materials, or technology out of the U.S. by whatever means will be subject to export controls and may require export license(s) depending on the item, destination, recipient, and end-use.

Providing Financial Support/International Financial Transactions – University activities that involve the international payment of funds to non-U.S. persons abroad need to be verified to ensure that the university is not inadvertently providing financial assistance to a blocked or sanctioned entity. Examples include providing support via a subcontract to a non-U.S. university or providing payments to research subjects in other countries. Contact the Office of Research Integrity if your activity involves payment to persons or organizations outside the U.S.

International Collaborations & Presentations – University activities that involve foreign national faculty, students, staff, visiting foreign scientists or collaborator(s), or other foreign entities (e.g., non-U.S. company, university or other organization) or research that will include travel to international conferences to present unpublished results may be subject to export controls especially if any of the foreign nationals are from embargoed or sanctioned countries. See International Collaborations for more information.

International Field Work – Research projects where any part of the research will take place outside the U.S. (e.g., field work outside the U.S.) may not qualify under the Fundamental Research Exclusion and may be subject to export controls. For help in determining potential export control issues, please contact ORI.

International Consulting – Providing professional consulting services overseas. Services to embargoed or sanctioned countries (e.g., Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea) are almost always strictly prohibited.

More information, see Export Controls & University Activities

Fines for non-compliance with export controls are quite severe and can be levied at both the individual as well as the university. In addition to significant monetary fines and lengthy prison sentences, the potential loss of all federal funding and loss of export privileges would be crippling to the university. University personnel may not transfer any items, information, technology or software contrary to U.S. export control laws or the university’s policy on export controls.

Civil Criminal Civil Criminal Civil Criminal
Penalties of $500,000 per violation Penalties of up to $1 million per violation along with up to 20 years in prison Penalties of $10,000 to $120,000 per violation Penalties of $50,000 to $1 million per violation along with up to 10 years in prison Penalties of $250,000 per violation Penalties of up to 20 years in prison