Having an effective export compliance program at a research university can be quite challenging, particularly when building that program from scratch.
But there are several key steps that can be taken from the beginning that will help ensure that your program will be strong and continue to grow successfully.
Getting started on building your program and integrating export compliance across your university can be accomplished in ten easy steps:
One: Lay the Foundation
The first thing you are going to want to do at your university is to take steps to institutionalize your export compliance program. This might involve drafting a policy related to export compliance. For some universities, export compliance is likely to be a relatively unknown territory. The typical policy review process at universities allows various stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed policy, ensuring that any policy appropriately takes into consideration any number of potential issues impacted by the policy. If implementing a policy at your university is not an option, or is not something that can be accomplished in the short term, one other approach might be to implement standard procedures to ensure that export compliance is reflected in the university’s operations, and incorporate other elements of an export compliance program such as those described below.
Two: Communicate Key Principles to Your University Community
Raising awareness of the critical nature of export compliance at universities can be challenging, but identifying key offices which are impacted by the regulations and are in a position to help get the message out is important. You may find that as you begin to raise awareness, new policies and procedures will serve as a “shock to the system,” introducing obstacles into the normal course of business that could lead to resistance. This is one of the greatest challenges that university export control officers face. But moving forward you should find that such resistance will diminish, and offices across campus such as Sponsored Projects, Financial Operations, and General Counsel are all potential partners who could assist in this pursuit.
Three: Create Partnerships with Key Offices
An effective export compliance program requires participation and awareness across campus. Ensuring the broadest possible oversight of such issues is critical to success. Once you have identified the offices that can help provide centralized oversight of export compliance, it will become much easier to convey your approach by ensuring that it reaches the broadest possible audience. Working through offices with specific export compliance obligations, such as those tasked with visa processing or contract negotiations, is also an effective way to disseminate any proposed policies or procedures.
Four: Identify Red Flag Areas
In building a program, there will inevitably be easily-recognized signs of export compliance exposure across your campuses. These areas might include sensitive research areas, shipping, engagement with embargoed countries, and personnel concerns. By working with these areas to provide education and guidance, your school’s export compliance program will be off to a good start.
Five: Get a Firm Handle on the Export Control Regulations
Not only are the export control regulations substantial and decentralized, but they undergo constant updates. Most important, for universities, are the Commerce Department’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which deal with dual use items¹ and information often in play at universities. The State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) should also be carefully reviewed.
Six: Engage External Resources
The federal government has made export control compliance a very high priority, and has a website dedicated to export control reform. The federal government also offers a variety of resources to the university community, and frequently engages directly with that community. Take advantage of these opportunities to engage the federal government, as it is certain to hone your understanding of the export compliance framework as well as establish important relationships in the community.
Seven: Begin to Document Your Work
One critical component of any export compliance program is to maintain records of any export reviews. This will not only allow you to build upon your work, but will establish an audit trail in the event that an export compliance issue arises down the line.
Eight: Conduct a Risk Assessment and Evaluate Your Institution’s Export Profile
The prevalence of export-sensitive issues across university campuses is significant, and it is incumbent upon the export control officer to identify how best to mitigate those risks. There are a number of ways to set yourself up for success, including focusing on the all-important Fundamental Research Exclusion² to protect university activity. Deciding upon and then communicating your university’s approach to export compliance is a critical step in the overall success of the program. Continuing to re-evaluate that approach, including periodic policy reviews/updates, is also important.
Nine: Introduce Restricted Party Screening
The screening of parties against published government watch lists for potential export compliance concerns is a simple way to strengthen your school’s compliance approach. Since universities continue to expand their reach globally, ensuring that your international relationships are cleared of potential restrictions is vital. There are a number of options for conducting these screenings, including a federal website which collects all lists in one spot, utilizing a private company to conduct ongoing screenings for you, or using software that allows you to conduct your own searches automatically.
Ten: Join the National Conversation
Once you feel comfortable that your export compliance program has been established, it would be a good idea to begin engaging with export compliance professionals across the country. There are countless outlets available to accomplish this objective, including university email lists, national organizations, broader compliance events, and a wide array of reference materials available via the Internet and elsewhere. These helpful resources can be leveraged to ensure that your export compliance program remains effective and proactive, and engaging in the national conversation will allow you to confidently approach your day-to-day responsibilities.
1. Dual use items are those having both commercial and military, or proliferation applications.
2. The results of research performed as fundamental research—i.e., results that are ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community—are not subject to export control laws and regulations.