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Export Controls Decision Tree

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville would like to acknowledge Stanford University for the design and content of this Decision Tree, and appreciates Stanford’s permission in allowing us to use its material for the benefit of the UT System.

United States export controls exist to protect the national security and foreign policy interests of this country. Export controls govern the shipment, transmission, or transfer of certain sensitive items, information or software to foreign persons or entities. Where applicable, they may require authorization from the U.S. Government in the form of an export license. Most of the items, information or software that The University of Tennessee ships or shares with its colleagues and research partners is not of a nature that would be restricted for these purposes, nor are they destined for countries or individuals subject to U.S. embargoes or sanctions. The University of Tennessee however is required to exercise due diligence, and this Decision Tree has been crafted for the purpose of helping the university community comply with U.S. export control laws.

These pages will walk you through a series of “Yes” or “No” questions, leading to a determination of whether or not an export control license is applicable to any particular situation. Remember that export controls may apply when an item, information or software is being sent outside U.S. borders, OR when it is being shared with “foreign persons or entities” in the U.S.

You may find it useful to note that export controls are frequently, but not exclusively, associated with items, information or software within the following general areas:

  • Chemical, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering
  • Materials Technology
  • Remote Sensing, Imaging and Reconnaissance
  • Navigation, Avionics and Flight Control
  • Robotics
  • Propulsion System and Unmanned Air Vehicle Subsystems
  • Telecommunications/Networking
  • Nuclear Technology
  • Sensors and Sensor Technology
  • Advanced Computer/Microelectronic Technology
  • Information Security/Encryption
  • Laser and Directed Energy Systems
  • Rocket Systems
  • Marine Technology

The questions in this Decision Tree use terminology derived from the regulations of the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Treasury. These questions ask about sharing, shipping, transmitting or transferring any items, information or software. Violations of these export control regulations can lead to significant civil and criminal penalties.

  • ITEMS refers to any tangible things, equipment or hardware.
  • INFORMATION can include technical data such as models, formulae, engineering designs and specifications, or technical assistance such as training or instruction.
  • SOFTWARE refers to a collection of one or more computer programs or microprograms in either source code (programming statements) or object code (machine-readable instructions).

As you go through these questions, you may have additional questions of your own. If so, please contact Jane Burns ( and James Andes (

The link at the bottom of each page will return you to this “starting point.” The “Back” button on your browser will return you to the immediately preceding question.

Any links to regulations, lists or other resources will open in a SEPARATE browser window.


Design and content used by permission of Stanford Univeristy (updated 2008).