By Don Buehler

Last week, we attended the annual Partnering for Compliance conference in Orlando. Among the many excellent U.S. government speakers in attendance was Glenn Smith, Chief of DDTC’s Enforcement Division. Mr. Smith and his team are well known by any company which has run into trouble with the ITAR and faced any kind of investigation or violation.

Among the many things Mr. Smith touched on in his remarks was the role of Empowered Officials as defined in ITAR § 120.25. He explained the importance that the government places on this role, and – needless to say – it cannot be overestimated. He went on to say that many companies do not properly invest in their Empowered Officials, despite the very significant responsibilities placed on them.

This got me thinking about our clients who are Empowered Officials. How much formal training do they get each year? Have they attended any conferences or seminars? Do they truly understand the responsibilities they undertake when naming themselves in response to their annual registration letters? Regardless of what your company expects of you as an Empowered Official, here’s what the government expects: They expect you to be the best educated, most experienced, and highest-prepared person in your company when it comes to ITAR and your compliance program. Can you confidently say you meet these criteria?

When Mr. Smith’s team visits a company in connection with an investigation or to research a problem, the person they first go to is the Empowered Official. So ask yourself: Am I prepared for that visit, should it occur? Do I understand the ins-and-outs of ITAR and U.S. export regulations? Can I confidently answer questions about our license applications, voluntary disclosures or any other aspect of our import/export compliance?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then I recommend more training and knowledge-building for you and any other Empowered Officials on your team. Attend the SIA conferences, BIS seminars or join any of the number of LinkedIn groups which specialize in export control. You can also check out our free webinar series or contact a consulting firm like us to help.

However you approach it, if your company is not willing to adequately prepare its Empowered Officials to carry out their responsibilities, then they’re being set-up for failure. Don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Don Buehler is founder and president of Export Solutions, Inc., a consultancy firm which specializes in helping companies comply with ITAR and EAR.