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Communications of the ACM


Effects of International Trafficking in Arms Regulations Changes

West Point Simulation Center cadet

An attendee of the U.S. Military Academy using the West Point Simulation Center for familiarization with military weapons and tactics.

Credit: Mike Strasser / U.S. Military Academy PAO

While it is an old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, the U.S. Department of State may have taken this concept a bit far too in classifying your email client as a munition. On June 3, 2015, the U.S. Department of State released new proposed International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) rules.8 Unlike many of the previous rulemaking releases that were part of this process, this release dealt with general terms that underlie the regulations in many other sections. As part of these, seemingly innocuous, changes, they replaced several definitions. This Viewpoint considers the impact of these changes on the U.S. software industry and software education.

The U.S. has a very real need to protect certain information. Some of this information is so sensitive that it can be made available to only select individuals within or working for the government. A classification mechanism exists for this government-originated information that restricts it to only authorized users. The location, configuration, and capabilities of military assets and other similar information fall under this regime. Other information and certain goods are also seen as providing the U.S. strategic advantage and thus are restricted to only U.S. and authorized foreign use. Two regimes exist for controlling this information and these goods: the ITAR6 and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).2 The former covers items that have a definitive military use (or for which military use is likely); the later covers less harmful goods. ITAR items are regulated by the U.S. Department of State, while EAR items are regulated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The two regimes have many similarities; however, the process, certain exemptions and the penalties for violation can differ significantly.


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