Are Your ITAR Empowered Officials Truly Empowered?

Written by Orchid


March 22, 2016



 ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) §120.25(a) states:

Empowered Official means a U.S. person who:

(1) Is directly employed by the applicant or a subsidiary in a position having authority for policy or management within the applicant organization; and

(2) Is legally empowered in writing by the applicant to sign license applications or other requests for approval on behalf of the applicant; and

(3) Understands the provisions and requirements of the various export control statutes and regulations, and the criminal liability, civil liability and administrative penalties for violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations; and

(4) Has the independent authority to:

(i) Inquire into any aspect of a proposed export, temporary import, or brokering activity by the applicant;

(ii) Verify the legality of the transaction and the accuracy of the information to be submitted; and

(iii) Refuse to sign any license application or other request for approval without prejudice or other adverse recourse. [Emphasis added.]

If you’re part of a company that exports ITAR-controlled defense articles, you need at least one Empowered Official in your office because only Empowered Officials can sign and certify export licenses. These individuals are responsible for confirming the compliance of ITAR-controlled export transactions with the Arms Export Control Act and certain other laws. This responsibility requires that they are in a position to provide oversight of controlled export and brokerage activity by the company. If they feel something is incomplete, inaccurate or illegal, an Empowered Official must refuse to sign license applications or otherwise to complete an export transaction.

How should you position your Empowered Official(s) to fulfill this important responsibility?


A commercial business concentrates on producing, distributing or selling, all of which are focused on revenue and profit growth. This means that the Empowered Official has a difficult role to play and one that sometimes conflicts with competing interests of the organization. To minimize the possibility for conflicting interests to interfere with the performance of export compliance duties, it is recommended that the Empowered Official should have independent reporting responsibilities, ideally separate from the Sales and Marketing chain of command.


Support from the highest levels of the organization is needed to set the tone for compliance. If your Empowered Official makes a reasonable request for information it should be unencumbered and met with a timely response. Empowered officials should be able to inquire about the details of commercial transactions and proposed decisions by their peers, and in some cases, their superiors as well. It’s the E.O.’s responsibility to evaluate the likelihood that a customer may intentionally or unintentionally fail to comply with US export laws and the policies of the Company.


Domestic firearm regulations can be enough to make your head spin. And, the regulations become even more complex when you factor in the regulations that govern international transactions and the export of firearms, firearm parts and other products regulated by ITAR. Incorporating export compliance seamlessly into your sales and order fulfillment process is critical to your success, which suggests that at least one resource in your organization should be an expert. The Empowered Official should subscribe to pertinent Agency websites and attend routine training at industry leading events.

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