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January 27, 2011 

State of the Union Address: How Many Different Government Agencies Actually Deal With Exports?

In describing the need for a more efficient federal government in the State of the Union (SOTU) address to Congress this week, President Obama said "there are 12 different agencies that deal with exports."

How did the White House come up with this number?

Depending on how one counts, there are more than 12 agencies that "deal with exports." The total number depends on how one defines "agency" and "deal with exports."

The Washington Post's SOTU Fact Checker columnist stated that:

The government's lists 11 federal agencies that deal with exports: the Energy Department, Export-Import Bank, International Trade Association, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Small Business Administration, the State Department, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the U.S. Trade Representative.
While the U.S. Trade Representative, a cabinet level position, handles policy-related issues associated with free trade agreements and other issues that impact exports, they do not have a day to day role in regulating export activities. Similarly, the Trade and Development Agency and U.S. Agency for International Development are involved in overseas programs that lead to U.S. companies exporting goods and services. Should the Small Business Administration qualify as dealing with exports?

In reviewing USA.Gov's list of federal agencies one can come up with more than 12 agencies that "deal with exports" on a regulatory and policy level. Here is the list that I came up with. Can you think of any others? Please leave your comments below.

U.S. Agencies Dealing With U.S. Exports

--Direct Involvement With and Regulation of U.S. Exports

1. Bureau of Industry and Security (Department of Commerce)

2. Census Bureau (Commerce) (EEI/AES filings)

3. Office of Foreign Assets Control (Treasury)

4. Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (State)

5. Defense Technology Security Administration (Defense)

6. Customs and Border Protection (DHS)

7. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS)

8. Food and Drug Administration (HHS)

9. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Independent)

10. Food Safety Inspection Service (Agriculture)

11. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (Agriculture)

12. National Nuclear Security Administration (Energy)

13. Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Independent)

14. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (Defense)

15. Drug Enforcement Agency (Justice)

16. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Justice/Treasury)

17. Fish and Wildlife Service (Interior)

18. Environmental Protection Agency (Independent)

19. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Commerce)

20. National Security Agency (Defense) (Encryption issues)

--Other U.S. Agencies Involved With Export-Related Matters

  • U.S. Trade Representative (Executive Office of the President)
  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency (Independent)
  • Agriculture Marketing Service (Agriculture)
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (Homeland Security) (now requires export control certification on I-129 form.

      Should the Federal Maritime Commission qualify? How about the National Security Council, which is currently involved with export control reform efforts? The U.S. International Trade Commission primarily deals only with imports, although they often conduct studies on export issues.

      Update: Thanks to a reader for mentioning DSCA, which deals with government to government transfers of defense articles under the Foreign Military Sales program.

      Update 2: Thanks to the comments and other input received, I have updated the list to reflect several additional agencies.

      Labels: ,

      How about BATF - which is under Homeland Security and the Dept. of Justice? Law Enforcement functions of BATF are under the DoJ; tax and trade functions of BATF are in the Treasury Department with the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

      Here are a few more: Department of Energy Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation Export Control Division; Depart of Energy Office of Fuels Program; Fish & Wildlife; Drug Enforcement Adminstration Office of Diversion Control Import-Export Unit; Patent and Trademark Office Licensing and Review (oversees patent filing data sent abroad); Environmental Protection Agency Office of Solid Waste International and Transportation Branch (regulates hazardous waste exports)

      Based on what I have heard and seen from a variety of US Government (USG) sources there are apparently three or four times as many different USG organizations than the President notes and that have some stake in the export control equation.

      One USG staffer stated there are 40+ such separate entities. Others have said there are at least 25 different sets of regulations and/or guidance that would have to be changed if all the export control related definitions were harmonized/standardized.

      As in most cases in Washington doesn’t it all depend on how you define the terms? What exactly does “deal with” mean? Are we talking about departments, agencies, organizations, offices or any entity anywhere in the USG who has any piece of export controls?

      It's my sense based on first-hand experience in the DC and interagency environment that 12 is not the number and does not accurately represent the complexity, competing interests, magnitude, number of layers, how many players there are or how many cookie jars are really involved.

      Could the number 12 have something to do with public relations, marketing and spin?

      In its Section 332 analytical function, the U.S. International Trade Commission deals with both exports and imports, but only has a policy function with respect to imports. Looking at USITC's website, one finds an extensive list of studies on export-related matters.

      The Department of Justice, along with the NSA, has authority to make recommendations on dual-use export license applications involving encryption products under Executive Order 13026, dated November 1996.

      You might include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT) which is engaged is setting standards related to the import and export of motor vehicles. E.g., one headlight is functionally equivalent to another and therefore my car can be sold there without making costly changes to the design and manufacturing process.

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