Export Controls

Federal rules and regulations require Western Michigan University to assure the transfer of information, commodities, technology, technical data, software, software codes and assistance are not released to foreign nationals or governments for reasons of national security, economic protection, and to promote our foreign policy objectives.

Failure to comply with export controls can result in the loss of research contracts, federal funding and the ability to export items. In addition, both the individual and the University are subject to severe monetary and criminal penalties.

Committee oversight: WMU Office of the Vice President for Research

WMU policies

WMU procedures

It is the policy of Western Michigan University that all employees, faculty, students, researchers and collaborators will comply with U.S. export control laws while ensuring that, to the extent possible, University instruction and research is conducted openly and without restriction on participation or publication.

All University personnel must take steps necessary to identify activities that may trigger export controls and when required obtain any governmental licenses. Safeguarding all controlled materials and limiting access to restricted information is critical.

Investigators whose research may be regulated by export control must contact the associate director of research compliance at (269) 387-8293 for assistance prior to initiation of the project.

The U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Treasury are the primary administrative branches that implement and enforce export controls. U.S. Export Control laws, including the Export Administration Regulations and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, can apply to university research activities. In addition, embargoes and sanction programs, administered by the Department of the Treasury through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (31 CFR §§500-599), can apply and. In some cases, all activities are subject to strict licensing requirements. In other cases, licenses will not be granted.

EAR (15 CFR §§730-774), administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security under the U.S. Department of Commerce, regulates the export or transfer of “dual use” items. Dual use items are those that have a potential military as well as commercial or civilian application. Almost every item located in the U.S. is subject to EAR; however, only a very small number require an export license. In addition to controlling dual use items, the EAR also prohibits U.S. participation in certain restrictive trade practices and foreign boycotts.  

ITAR (22 CFR §§120-130), administered by Directorate of Defense Trade Controls under the U.S. Department of State, governs all military, weapons and space-related items and services as enumerated on the U.S. Munitions List.

OFAC, under the U.S. Department of Treasury, is responsible for enforcing the foreign policy of the U.S. government, including all trade sanctions, embargoes and financial interactions with prohibited or blocked individuals or entities.

For purposes of these laws, “export” means not only the physical shipment of items from the United States to a foreign country, but also the release of controlled technology to foreign persons within the United States by way of visual inspection, oral transmission or training (“deemed export”). In other words, a prohibited export can occur by the mere presence of a foreign researcher or student in a university laboratory, if the laboratory contains equipment or technology that is export controlled and the foreign individual can learn information about the controlled technology or information that is not in the public domain.  Likewise, dissemination of research results at international conferences may require specific prior approval of the awarding agency.

Examples of export control

Export controls are frequently, but not exclusively, associated with items, information or software within the following general areas:

  • Advanced computer/microelectronic technology
  • Chemical, biotechnology and biomedical engineering
  • Navigation, avionics and flight control
  • Nuclear technology

Methods of disclosure include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Access to sensitive laboratories
  • Computer data disclosure
  • Email communications
  • Face-to-face discussions
  • Phone discussions
  • Fax communications
  • Social media
  • Tours which involve visual inspection
  • Training sessions

Export control forms

Regulation links

Violation—A case study

Violation of export control laws is a criminal matter that may include jail time and substantial fines. It is important to note that violations can be assigned to the individual and not just begin and end with the university, as is demonstrated in the case study here.

PSA from Homeland Security

Submit a concern

To submit a concern, use the WMU Reporting Hotline. Choose “Make a Report” at the top of the page.


Jim Center
(269) 387-5933
Export Control Officer