Think you have an ITAR issue? Protect yourself, experts say

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

Component suppliers who even suspect that their products might be designed into military systems need to take steps to protect themselves from potential violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). If they don't, they risk serious trouble.

I'm not talking about just fines; I'm talking about losing your company. The bottom line is protecting yourself. This is risky -- to the point that in extreme circumstances you could be working at Wendy's the next day, warns Dean Young, facilities security officer for Celestica Aerospace Technologies in Austin, Texas.

Young made his comments Wednesday in a panel discussion at the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum (MAEF) conference and trade show in San Diego, which concluded Wednesday afternoon.

Component suppliers should be on guard for ITAR issues, particularly if they are doing business with the large prime defense contractors. Most of these large companies have ITAR organizations in place to help their suppliers navigate often-treacherous ITAR waters, but sometimes problems can occur, experts admit.

Prime defense contractors are very sensitive about releasing details about whose products they are using, and in which applications -- sometimes to the degree that individual engineers or program managers inside these companies might be reluctant to tell even the suppliers of the components where these devices are going.

If this happens, push back and get enough information to protect yourself, panelists told MAEF attendees. Don't accept "we're not telling," or "mind your own business," from customers -- ever.

If that kind of thing happens, such as if a person at a prime contract is being difficult or is overly concealing information, "I would like to know about it," says Karen Jones, director of export import operations at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz.

In addition to Young and Jones, other panelists were Kay Georgi, partner at the law firm of Arent Fox LLP in Washington, and Lawrence Fink, director of corporate export administration at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) in San Diego.

Component suppliers need to get smart about ITAR guidelines; they need to get smart fast before they get into trouble. It can be a matter of protecting yourself, your family, and your company.

It may even involve the potential of walking away from revenue if a supplier simply cannot get the information he needs to protect himself, experts say.

At the same time, suppliers should be as tactful and as partnering as possible when they approach their prime-contractor customers so they don't risk killing their business or relationships.

For more information, panelists recommend a pamphlet on Project Shield America from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's investigative bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington.

Project Shield America is an industry outreach program to prevent the illegal export of sensitive U.S. munitions and strategic technology to terrorists, criminal organizations, and foreign adversaries.

To learn more about the Project Shield America pamphlet, contact ICE online at

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

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