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What is ITAR?

Written by Orchid


May 17, 2016



What is ITAR and How Does it Impact
My FFL or Firearm Exports?

The ITAR are federal regulations with which any American company that manufactures firearms or ammunition, or sells them internationally, has to comply. Even manufacturers who only sell domestically must obey the ITAR. For any firearms or ammo company that deals in business outside US borders, the compliance and licensing impact of these regulations is pervasive.

In this blog post, we want to explain the basics of the ITAR, or the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.


The ITAR was born out of the Arms Export and Control Act of 1976. The ITAR exist to protect national security and to promote US foreign policy objectives. These regulations give the President and, in some instances, Congress authority over the export and brokering of defense articles, defense services and defense technical data that take place in the US or under the power of a US person or entity. The ITAR not only regulate the export, brokering and temporary import of defense articles, defense services and defense technical data, but they also prevent them from being transferred to objectionable persons, entities, and countries. This is the reason why all manufacturers and exporters are required to know their non-US customers and the foreign persons, even those inside the US, to whom they provide defense services or disclose technical data.

How the ITAR Operates

Historically, the State Department has been in charge of enforcing the ITAR, specifically the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). Within the State Department, DDTC oversees all export and brokering of defense articles, defense services and technical data. It also controls temporary imports. DDTC works closely with other government agencies including the Defense Dept., to process export licenses; US Customs and Border Protection, to administer trade regulations; the intelligence community, to review potential diversions and unauthorized transfers; and the Justice Dept. to provide pre-trial consultations in criminal cases and expert testimony.

Important ITAR Terms

DDTC periodically updates the ITAR to reflect changes in the international political and security climate, technological development, and US foreign policy. The definition of who is a “denied party” and the list of countries prohibited from receiving defense articles, defense services and technical data are not set in stone and often change. For example, Vietnam, Cote D’Ivoire, and Sri Lanka have been removed from the list of prohibited countries in just the last few weeks.

The definition of a defense article, however, isn’t subject to world affairs. Nearly all firearms and ammunition, their parts and components, and corresponding technical data are defense articles. All manufacturing, export, temporary import, and brokering activity involving these articles is subject to the ITAR.

While many export reforms have taken place during the current administration, firearms and ammunition have remained firmly in the jurisdiction of the Department of State, with no change announced for the immediate future.

Need more information? Contact us today.

jeff-grody-orchid-advisorsBy Jeff Grody
Principal and Export / ITAR Practice Lead

Orchid Advisors assists firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers in achieving compliance and operational excellence through education, technology, software and consulting solutions that reduce risk, cut costs, and provide expert guidance to make our client’s business more successful and efficient.

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