What Are Export Controls?

Export controls are laws and regulations designed to keep certain information, technology, and other sensitive items secure against unauthorized access and to protect national security and US economic interests.

Since Congress passed the first Export Control Act in 1940, the President has had the power to limit the import and export of military equipment, munitions, and other materials whenever doing so is deemed “necessary in the interest of national defense.”

Over the years, the President’s authority to regulate exports has expanded from physical military items to cover all commercial and civilian goods as well as certain kinds of military and commercial information (also known as “technical data” and “technology,” respectively). During that time, the President has delegated this regulatory authority to several agencies.

Modern export controls are designed to address heightened concerns about homeland security, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, drug-trafficking, and leaks of American technology to foreign competitors. Export controls answer four main questions:

  1. What can be exported from the United States?
  2. Where in the world can it be exported to?
  3. Who can receive it?
  4. How will they use it?

The Export Control Compliance Program is designed to provide guidance in answering these questions as they apply to members of the UNL community.