June 28, 2023

    ITAR Compliance: Understanding the Basics

    In 2023, compliance with ITAR regulations continues to be a critical consideration for a wide range of industries. If you're dealing with highly-regulated technologies, data sets, or products that could have a military application, you need to understand ITAR compliance. In this blog post, we are going to take a deep dive into ITAR compliance and explore everything you need to know.

    A History of ITAR

    Since its inception in 1976, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance has undergone numerous changes. The ITAR regulations govern the export and import of defense articles, defense services, and technical data. The primary goal of ITAR is to safeguard US national security by preventing sensitive technologies from falling into the wrong hands.

    Initially, ITAR regulations covered just a few technologies, but as the years have passed, the scope has expanded to include almost everything that may have military or defense applications. Over time, ITAR compliance has become more rigorous and complex, making it challenging for businesses to comply with the regulations.

    One of the critical changes brought about by ECRI was the shift from the use of the US Munitions List (USML) to the Commerce Control List (CCL). The list was developed to differentiate non-military products with dual use, so the US itself can produce more items that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. This shift allowed for the exclusion of less sensitive items from the ITAR list, alleviating the compliance burden on businesses exporting these items.

    Another significant milestone in ITAR compliance occurred in 2013 when the US government issued regulations to establish a voluntary compliance program. The program is ideal for companies looking to self-police and manage their ITAR compliance in-house. The core objective of the program is to encourage companies to embrace a proactive approach to compliance, to minimize the risk of non-compliance, and to reduce the potential of facing substantial ITAR-related fines.

    Today, ITAR compliance continues to evolve and impact businesses worldwide. In the last decade alone, the US government has introduced numerous updates to the regulations, including the removal of satellite guidance modules from the USML. Additionally, ITAR now incorporates cloud-based computing into the compliance framework, deeming data located on the cloud subject to the same regulations as if it were physical hardware.

    Who Needs to Comply with ITAR?

    ITAR compliance is mandatory for any company or individual that exports defense articles, services, or technical data. This includes not only military products and services but also many non-military items that could have a military application. Some of the industries that are required to have ITAR compliance include aerospace and defense, satellite and space-related technologies, robotics and automation, and nuclear technologies.

    The following is a list of the primary industries most likely to need ITAR compliance and the reason an organization operating in these industries might require ITAR compliance:

    • Defense: This includes companies or organizations involved in manufacturing, selling, and exporting of defense-related technology, including weapons, military vehicles, and communication equipment.

    • Aerospace: Companies involved in the aerospace industry are increasingly subject to ITAR controls due to rigorous safety requirements, like satellite systems, military drones, and other space technologies.

    • Electronics: Certain types of electronic equipment that have potential military applications, such as radiation-hardened integrated circuits and encryption software, require ITAR compliance.

    • Telecommunications: Any company involved in the design, manufacturing, or export of encryption technology for secure communication between military or aerospace systems is subject to ITAR regulations.

    • Transportation: Ground, air, and sea transportation companies that produce equipment deemed military or defense-related, like armored vehicles, aircraft engines, and missile systems, are required to comply with ITAR regulations.

    It's essential to note that this list is not all-encompassing, and many other industries may be subject to ITAR controls depending on their involvement in the export or import of defense-related goods, services, or technical data. It's advisable to consult the U.S. Department of State's ITAR guidelines or seek legal advice to determine the applicability of ITAR regulations to a particular industry or situation.

    What are the Regulations and Definitions of ITAR?

    To help you understand ITAR regulations and definitions, here is a concise list of important ITAR regulations and their definitions:

    • Purpose and Definitions: This regulation provides a comprehensive definition of ITAR and outlines the types of articles, services, and technical data that fall under its jurisdiction.[1] 

    • US Munitions List (USML): This list categorizes defense articles and services, as well as relevant technical data and defense-related training provided to foreign military personnel.[2]

    • Commerce Control List (CCL): This list contains articles, services, and technical data with dual-use applications, which means they can be used for both military and civilian purposes. This regulation is designed to help companies determine whether or not their product is subject to ITAR controls.[3]

    • Registration and Licensing: This regulation requires companies and individuals involved in exporting defense articles and services to register with the US Department of State and obtain an export license before exporting. This registration process allows the US government to keep track of all transactions and exports under ITAR regulation.[4]

    • Record-Keeping: This regulation requires companies that export defense items to maintain records of all ITAR-relevant transactions for at least five years.[5]

    ITAR regulations are complex and often difficult to navigate. Companies and individuals who are unsure about their ITAR compliance requirements are encouraged to seek guidance from legal counsel or reach out to the Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

    What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of ITAR Compliance?

    One of the biggest advantages of ITAR compliance is that it helps companies avoid hefty fines and legal issues. In the event of a breach, the fines can be astronomical, ranging from a few hundred thousand up to millions of dollars. It's also an opportunity to boost your company's reputation by demonstrating that you take the necessary steps to safeguard sensitive information.

    However, ITAR compliance does come with costs. It requires a thorough understanding of the regulations, including training for employees and establishing effective security protocols. It's also important to understand that compliance can take a long time, which can delay product development and go-to-market timelines.

    The advantages and disadvantages of ITAR can vary depending on the specific circumstances and perspectives of different stakeholders.

    What are the fines related to not complying with ITAR?

    The fines related to ITAR non-compliance are hefty and can be significant; they can range from $500,000 to millions of dollars per violation. These fines are issued by the US Government to companies who fail to comply with ITAR regulations. Ignorance of the regulations is not an excuse, and the US Government takes non-compliance extremely seriously. The financial impact of non-compliance can be devastating for a company's bottom line and reputation.

    Failure to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) can result in significant fines, which vary depending on the circumstances of the violation. Here is a list of fines related to ITAR compliance:

    • Civil penalties: Up to $500,000 per violation with intentional violations resulting in penalties up to $1,000,000 per violation.

    • Criminal penalties: Imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines ranging from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 may apply in instances of individual non-compliance.

    • Administrative penalties: This includes the suspension, revocation, or denial of export privileges depending on the severity of the breach and the potential damage to national security.

    • Debarment: Debarment refers to the illegal practice of preventing certain companies or individuals from participating in government contracts or subcontracts. A violation of ITAR can result in a company or individual being debarred for several years or even indefinitely.

    • Seizure of products or assets: In cases where an ITAR violation leads to the export or import of commodities or defense articles without proper authorization, the US government may seize or confiscate the products or assets.

    Please note that these fine amounts are based on the U.S. Department of State's ITAR regulations as of September 2021. It's important to consult the latest ITAR regulations or seek legal advice for accurate and up-to-date information regarding fines and penalties associated with ITAR violations. You can also learn more here about reporting violations.

    Assessments and Approvals

    To obtain ITAR approval, a company must prepare and submit a range of documentation to the U.S. Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). The documentation requirements may vary depending on the product or service involved and the situation.

    Once a company passes the assessment, it can apply for ITAR approval. When applying for ITAR approval, the company must provide a broad range of supporting documentation, including documentation related to its products, systems, and services.

    Typically, the required documentation includes the following:

    • Product descriptions and technical data
    • Export compliance manuals and procedures for ITAR-controlled products
    • Agreements with foreign business partners or suppliers
    • Documentation related to ITAR training programs
    • Record-keeping procedures for ITAR-controlled products
    • General company information, including tax and legal documents

    Because of the range of documentation involved, the ITAR approval process can be quite lengthy and may take several months to complete. It's highly recommended that companies seek the assistance of an ITAR specialist or consultant to navigate the requirements and ensure a smooth approval process.


    ITAR compliance is essential to safeguarding sensitive technology and maintaining national security. The regulations require companies to understand and adhere to strict export controls, technical data management, and foreign national access protocols. While the compliance process can be costly, the value of protecting sensitive information through ITAR compliance is immeasurable.

    If you're looking to get started with ensuring your company's file sharing and file transfer is ITAR-compliant, Sharetru is the best platform for ITAR-compliant file transfer and file sharing due to its exceptional data security, FedRAMP-authorized IaaS and PaaS, regulatory compliance, and customized experience. Sharetru's granular permissions system, end-to-end encryption, and multi-factor authentication ensure that files remain confidential and only accessible to authorized users. In addition, Sharetru offers a variety of industry-leading security features that businesses can implement as they see fit to customize their platform experience. With its proven solutions and exceptional service, it's no wonder that Sharetru's growing list of satisfied clients recommends it as the go-to solution for ITAR-compliant file transfer and file sharing.

    Don't wait until the last minute to take action; start your compliance journey today and protect your business, your customers, and your reputation.


    1. https://www.ecfr.gov
    2. https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/ddtc_public/ddtc_public
    3. https://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/regulations/export-administration-regulations-ear#Control-Lists
    4. https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/ddtc_public/ddtc_public?id=ddtc_kb_article_page&sys_id=def5f542dbf8d30044f9ff621f961959
    5. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/22/122.1

    Arvind Mistry

    Arvind, Sharetru's Director of Compliance, brings 11+ years' experience in cloud solutions for Federal Govt. & public sector from esteemed companies.

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