ITAR Authorization and PCB Development

As an innovator, you understand the importance of partnering with the right industry experts. Not only should your supply, fabrication, and distribution partners provide the services you need, but these businesses should also follow policies that are up to your and your industry’s standards.

If any of your PCB products have defense applications, applicable standards include International Traffic in Arms Regulations or ITAR authorization.

In our previous blog, “Why Buy American-Made Circuit Boards?” we summarized the fundamentals of ITAR authorization. In this blog, we discuss the ITAR registration process and the importance of ITAR authorization, especially in the PCB industry.

ITAR Registration and Compliance Requirements

The ITAR standard was put in place to control the import and export of defense products and information, thereby protecting the interests, intellectual property, and safety of American innovators and civilians.

While some individuals use the phrase ITAR certified when referring to ITAR authorized companies, no certification of ITAR compliance exists. Instead, companies register for ITAR authorization and then maintain compliance subject to oversight from ITAR officials.

The registration process requires that companies submit the applicable fees and forms as well as complete documentation of the processes they have put in place or plan to put in place to ensure ITAR compliance. The outlined procedures must indicate that the company:

  • Continually assesses and addresses new risks
  • Follows suitable protocol for the storage and transport of ITAR items
  • Has at least one employee dedicated to ITAR compliance matters
  • Has implemented or plans to implement specific procedures for handling ITAR products and data
  • Has a response should an ITAR violation occur
  • Keeps appropriate documentation of transport and receiving of ITAR items
  • Restricts unauthorized access to ITAR products and data, especially by foreign nationals

Once a company has registered for ITAR authorization, it becomes subject to ITAR audits and serious penalties for any violations. These penalties can include civil and criminal fines, jail time, and bans from defense-related import or export depending on the violation committed.

ITAR Versus EAR Authorization

Some individuals mistakenly use the terms ITAR authorization and EAR authorization interchangeably. However, failure to use ITAR authorized partners and comply with ITAR yourself can result in penalties even when processes are EAR compliant.

EAR stands for Export Administration Regulations. These regulations affect items and information that is intended for commercial use, but that could potentially be repurposed for defense uses.

The goal of EAR is to minimize the risk of imported or exported commercial goods being misused for military purposes. Because the purpose of ITAR and EAR differ, the need for your business and partners to comply with either set of regulations depends on which products and data you deal with.

Products Under ITAR

ITAR applies to a list of item categories known as the United States Munitions List or USML. These categories include firearms, personal protective equipment, and ammunition. The majority of the other categories on the USML include products run using PCB technology. These items include:

  • Aircraft
  • Electronics intended for military purposes
  • Equipment associated with toxicological agents
  • Fire control systems
  • Ground and naval vessels
  • Imaging equipment
  • Laser equipment
  • Missile guidance systems
  • Nuclear management systems
  • Spacecraft

Additionally, the USML includes all technology and data relating to any of these items, including their construction, testing, and performance.

ITAR in the PCB Industry

ITAR authorization is essential for PCB development considering how many of the USML’s 21 categories contain PCB technology. When your PCB engineering and manufacturing company is ITAR compliant, you receive the following benefits:

  • Assurance that appropriate handling and security protocols are followed during storage and transportation of your PCBs and final products
  • Avoidance of ITAR penalties
  • Better information security, including secure communication regarding your PCB
  • Peace of mind that no parts were improperly imported from other countries

Your PCB partner must have ITAR registration in order to even provide a quote or accept a contract from you that includes USML products or data in the scope of the agreement.

As you consider prospective PCB companies, however, remember that compliance is more important than simple registration. You may want to ask about the company’s specific ITAR compliance plans to ensure that you’re choosing the appropriate partner for your project. This step minimizes any risk of violations found during audits.

As you decide on the designers, engineers, and manufacturers who will make your new PCB-based product or innovation of an existing product into a reality, remember to consider each company’s ITAR authorization and compliance history.

If you have questions about how ITAR may apply to your product, discuss your situation with a PCB professional or ITAR official. At Streamline Circuits, we are proud to maintain strict ITAR compliance in order to offer even clients with the most sensitive information in the PCB industry the security they’re looking for in the development process. Work with us for assurance of ITAR compliance.