Export control regulations serve several purposes:
- Maintain national security by controlling proliferation of military technologies and some non-military technologies that have military applications.
- Protect the commercial advantages of US technologies
- Support US foreign policy by enforcing controls on flow of money to embargoed countries, entities, and persons.
The regulations are based of Commodities, Entities, and Countries.
Two lists of commodities cover pretty much everything manufactured in the US.
Commerce Control List (CCL), administered by the Department of Commerce, lists items that have military and non-military uses. The regulations are called EAR – Export Administration Regulations.
US Munitions List (USML), administered by the Department of State, covers items that have military uses only. The regulations are collectively known as ITAR - the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Technical information (which may result from fundamental research) about listed items counts as much as the physical items when analyzing whether something is subject to export control regulations.
There are several lists of entities - persons, companies or institutions - that are restricted from receiving exports without a license. The lists are maintained by various government agencies and go by different names, but the two most frequently cited are:
Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, maintained by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of Department of the Treasury, covers persons, places such as companies or industries, and countries that are restricted from engaging in financial transactions or receiving any exports without a license.
Denied Persons List, is a list of people and companies whose export privileges have been denied by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce. An American company or individual may not participate in an export transaction with an individual or company on the denied persons list.
Many countries have been sanctioned by the US because of activities that are inimical to national security or violate United Nations resolutions.
Comprehensive sanctions restrict all financial and commercial transactions with persons or institutions in Crimea Region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, or Syria without a license from OFAC or BIS.
Selective or targeted sanctions restrict specific commodities or financial transactions to a country or to specific groups or individuals within a country.
The list of comprehensively sanctioned countries is short and relatively static, but the list of selectively sanctioned countries is dynamic because countries are listed and delisted as conditions change.
Operationally, analyzing the regulations to determine whether a license is needed in particular situation usually means triangulating – or screening - the lists of commodities, entities, and countries.