It should come as no surprise that information related to the United States defense industry is highly regulated. This sensitive data, often handled by U.S. military or government organizations, could affect national security or foreign relations — and as such, can carry extremely high penalties if mishandled.

What is ITAR Compliance?

ITAR— or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations— are a set of rules set up by the U.S. government to keep tabs on the export of defense-related products, services, and information. The main priority is to uphold US national security and foreign policy interests by making sure that sensitive defense items, like technology and info, don’t end up in the wrong hands outside the U.S.

This is all in line with the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to protect U.S. national security, back up foreign policy, and keep a tight grip on defense technologies to prevent them from going where they shouldn’t.

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ITAR Compliance Requirements

ITAR regulates several types of defense articles, defense services, and technical data that the USML defines. Here is a breakdown of what each category covers.

Defense Articles

While many might think of “defense articles” or items as tanks, missiles, firearms, and other weapons, the scope is much broader. The defense articles enumerated in the USML include the following 21 categories:

  1. Firearms, close assault weapons, and combat shotguns
  2. Guns and armament
  3. Ammunition/ordnance
  4. Launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, and mines
  5. Explosives and energetic materials, propellants, incendiary agents, and their constituents
  6. Surface vessels of war and special naval equipment
  7. Ground vehicles
  8. Aircraft and related articles
  9. Military training equipment and training
  10. Personal protective equipment
  11. Military electronics
  12. Fire control, laser, imaging, and guidance equipment
  13. Materials and miscellaneous articles
  14. Toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents, and associated equipment
  15. Spacecraft and related articles
  16. Nuclear weapons-related articles
  17. Classified articles, technical data, and defense services not otherwise enumerated
  18. Directed energy weapons
  19. Gas turbine engines and associated equipment
  20. Submersible vessels and related articles
  21. Articles, technical data, and defense services not otherwise enumerated

Defense Services

The defense services under ITAR’s purview fall into three main categories:

  1. Providing assistance to foreign persons on anything related to defense articles, including training, design, development, manufacturing, maintenance, etc.
  2. Providing foreign persons with controlled technical data
  3. Providing foreign units and forces military training

Technical Data

ITAR also regulates three types of technical data:

  1. Information for the design, development, manufacturing of defense articles, including blueprints, drawings, documentation, etc.
  2. Classified information about the defense articles and defense services listed above
  3. Software directly related to defense articles
5 Effective Ways to Reduce Risk on Federal Data - ITAR Compliance
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2023 ITAR Amendment

In 2023, the ITAR regulations have undergone some changes aimed at streamlining the process for US companies to export defense-related products and services. The changes aim to make the process more efficient and user-friendly, while still ensuring the security of sensitive defense-related information.

The proposed ITAR rule adds two new entries to the definition of “activities that are not exports, reexports, retransfers, or temporary imports.” The first entry states that taking of defense articles outside a previously approved country by foreign government armed forces or UN personnel is exempt from ITAR regulations. The second entry states that a foreign defense article that enters the US and is subsequently exported under a license or other approval is exempt from reexport and retransfer requirements, as long as it has not been modified, enhanced, or otherwise altered.

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Who Must Comply with ITAR Regulations

Covered entities are not limited to organizations in the defense industry — or government or military organizations. Absolutely any company — public or private — that does business with the U.S. military or deals with information related to items, services, or technical data covered on the USML must comply with ITAR.

Covered parties include — but are not limited to — third-party contractors and companies in the supply chain, including manufacturers, exporters, and brokers for defense articles or information — as well as wholesalers, distributors, and technology companies.

Securing ITAR Data

Securing ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) data is crucial for companies to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of sensitive defense-related information. Here are some steps companies can take to secure their ITAR data:

  • Access Control: Limit data access to authorized personnel.
  • Encryption: Protect data with strong encryption.
  • Training: Educate employees on ITAR regulations.
  • Physical and Network Security: Safeguard physical and digital data.
  • Data Classification: Label sensitive information clearly.
  • Incident Response Plan: Prepare for data breaches.
  • Legal and Compliance Support: Seek expert guidance.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: Continuously oversee data access.
  • Secure Communication: Use encrypted channels for data sharing.
  • Vendor and Third-Party Management: Ensure partners comply with ITAR rules.
  • Secure Disposal: Properly dispose of unneeded data.

Common ITAR Violations to Avoid

ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) violations can have serious legal and financial consequences, and they often occur due to a lack of understanding or adherence to these complex regulations. Here are some of the most common ITAR violations:

  • Unlicensed Export or Transfer: One of the most prevalent ITAR violations involves exporting or transferring ITAR-controlled items, services, or technology to a foreign person or entity without obtaining the required export license. This violation often occurs due to ignorance of the regulations, incomplete paperwork, or failure to recognize that specific items are subject to ITAR controls.
  • Failure to Obtain Proper Licensing: Even if an entity is aware of the ITAR requirements, failure to obtain the appropriate export or transfer license before proceeding with a transaction is a common violation. Each export or transfer of ITAR-controlled items usually requires a specific license, and not obtaining one is a serious offense.
  • Inadequate Recordkeeping: ITAR-compliant entities are required to maintain detailed records of their ITAR-related activities, including export, import, and transfer transactions, as well as licenses and agreements. Violations occur when organizations do not keep accurate and complete records, making it difficult to demonstrate compliance in case of an audit.
  • Inadequate Security Measures: ITAR-regulated items, information, and technology must be safeguarded against unauthorized access. Violations can occur if entities do not have adequate physical and digital security measures in place to protect sensitive information from being disclosed to unauthorized parties.
  • Failure to Screen Employees: Companies must screen employees and individuals with access to ITAR-controlled items to ensure they are U.S. citizens or otherwise authorized to access such materials. Violations occur when individuals without proper authorization gain access to these materials.
  • Incomplete or Inaccurate Documentation: Inaccurate or incomplete documentation regarding the classification of items, services, or technology, as well as their export or transfer status, can lead to ITAR violations. Failing to accurately classify items or incorrectly marking them can result in non-compliance.
  • Failure to Report Violations: ITAR-compliant entities are required to report any actual or suspected violations to the appropriate authorities promptly. Failing to report violations, whether intentional or unintentional, can lead to more severe consequences if discovered.
  • Foreign National Involvement: Involving foreign nationals, even indirectly, in projects or transactions involving ITAR-controlled items can lead to violations. Proper procedures for handling foreign nationals in ITAR-related activities must be followed.
  • International Travel with ITAR Items: Traveling internationally with ITAR-controlled items, such as laptops or technical data, without the necessary authorizations can lead to violations.
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ITAR Exemptions and Exceptions

ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) does provide certain exemptions and exceptions to its regulations, allowing specific individuals and activities to be exempt from full compliance. Some common exemptions and exceptions include:

  • U.S. Government Agencies: ITAR regulations do not typically apply to U.S. government agencies when dealing with defense-related items or information. However, these agencies are subject to their own internal controls.
  • Public Domain Information: Information that is already in the public domain, such as published books, articles, and websites, is generally exempt from ITAR controls. However, the line between public domain and controlled information can be complex.
  • Fundamental Research: Basic and applied research conducted at accredited institutions of higher education in the United States is exempt from ITAR controls, provided it is intended for publication and does not involve specific defense-related technology.
  • U.S. Munitions List (USML) Category XII: Some specific items in USML Category XII (Fire Control, Range Finder, Optical and Guidance and Control Equipment) may be eligible for exemptions, depending on certain conditions.
  • Temporary Exports: Temporary exports of ITAR-controlled items for events like trade shows or exhibitions can be eligible for temporary export licenses.
  • Servicing and Maintenance: ITAR regulations may not apply to the routine servicing and maintenance of defense articles if they do not involve the transfer of technical data or significant modifications.
  • TAA (Technical Assistance Agreement) and MLA (Manufacturing License Agreement): ITAR regulations can be exempted or modified under the terms of a TAA or MLA, subject to approval by the U.S. Department of State.
  • De Minimis Rule: If a foreign-made item or system contains only a small percentage of U.S.-origin ITAR-controlled components (typically less than 10% by value), it may not be subject to ITAR controls.

How to Secure ITAR Data with BigID

Any organization subject to ITAR requirements must take concrete steps to secure their defense data and implement a detailed incident response plan in the event of a breach.

BigID’s automated data intelligence platform enables government, military, defense, and any company that handles defense articles or services to identify and secure ITAR data, prevent data breaches, reduce risk, and ultimately achieve ITAR compliance.

To learn more about how to secure and manage ITAR data to meet compliance— schedule a 1:1 demo with BigID today.