University research is usually exempt from export controls by virtue of the research exemption for basic research. Yet university research often involves the use of export-controlled equipment. In addition, foreign students are sometimes engaged in research, which is critically important to the military. For foreign students, mainly those coming from China, it is important to know whether information gleaned by them in their laboratory work is subject to deemed export rules. What we all wish to avoid is the sad situation recently encountered by University of Tennessee Professor Roth who was convicted under the Arms Export Control Act of exporting defense-related materials. Prof. Roth was convicted of illegally exporting military technical information relating to plasma technology designed to be deployed on the wings of drones operating as a weapon or surveillance system. He faces a large fine and jail time for his crime.
The Department of State is charged with helping to establish export control regulations related to cutting-edge dual-use goods and technologies. Dual-use goods are those that have both military and non-military applications. The controls are established by 40 countries making up the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA). Once the WA determines the controls for the dual-use technology, the controls are incorporated into the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), where they are generally administered by the Department of Commerce. Those items that are designed for military use are specified on the US Munitions List (USML) and ultimately controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) administered by the Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). The challenge that university researchers and industry face is to know which high-technology items are controlled and where. In general, export controls can be bewildering but I hope to make them less so by illustrating the nature of controls for lasers, sensors, and low-light level cameras. I will also discuss briefly deemed export and nonimmigrant visas as they relate to the exchange of knowledge with our foreign students.