Export compliance officer discusses balancing national security and international engagement
When you hear "export control regulations," your mind might conjure up images of professors behind bars for disclosing national secrets. Or, it could be an image of bewildering forms covered with government legal jargon. Neither is an attractive option.
But neither need be the case, said Dan Runge, UGA's export compliance officer, who in 2014 joined the Office of Research Compliance in the Office of the Vice President for Research, to assure that UGA and its researchers can continue growing its international engagement while reducing the risk of violating national security concerns.
Chris King, associate vice president for research compliance, acknowledges that the regulation of export controls is an exceedingly complex area, in large part because it is governed by three different federal agencies with overlapping—and sometime contradictory—rules and guidance.
"A few years ago, we realized that UGA's burgeoning international engagement in research, teaching and outreach along with an expanding scope of research in engineering, biological, agricultural, veterinary and marine sciences was creating export control risks," King said.
A 2013 study commissioned by Vice President for Research David Lee confirmed those risks and paved the way for a set of recommendations to mitigate the institution's risk while minimizing the burden to researchers and others.
The key recommendation of the study was to dedicate a staff resource—an export compliance professional—to develop "user-friendly" control procedures and implement these in a way that supports compliance while not impeding research and business activities.
Before coming to UGA, Runge worked in law school admissions at Texas Tech University School of Law and as a prosecutor in Kansas state court. His bachelor's degree in history; a law degree from the University of Kansas; and a Master of Laws in International Law, with an emphasis in international trade and business, from the University of San Diego, prepared him to deal with the intricacies of export control law in UGA's academic and research environment.
"Dan has the perfect balance of technical knowledge, abilities in project management and interpersonal skills to be successful in building UGA's export compliance program," King said.
Runge has been instrumental in building awareness of export controls and, in addition to creating right-sized policies and procedures, he has created a campuswide network of knowledgeable individuals who serve as "eyes and ears" in proactively and cohesively managing UGA's export control obligations.
He explained his job to Columns.
Columns: In a nutshell, what is export compliance?
Runge: Export compliance assures that research limited to participation by U.S. persons only, access to equipment limited to U.S. persons only and exports of equipment or information comply with federal law.
Columns: What does export compliance mean for UGA researchers?
Runge: Export compliance is not a bar to research or international activities. The researcher and his or her lab will simply need to follow guidelines from the Export Control Office related to access to restricted research or equipment, or travel to sanctioned or embargoed countries. The Export Control Office facilitates university activities in a way that limits risks and burdens on the UGA community.
Columns: When should a researcher worry? What about travel?
Runge: Export control has an impact on UGA research when sponsored research includes limitations on foreign national participation or publication for national security or proprietary reasons. Research without these restrictions is considered "fundamental research" and is excluded from control. However, "fundamental research" may still be subject to control if it involves the export, even temporarily, of controlled equipment, or access to or use of controlled equipment by foreign nationals. Controlled items will have dual commercial and military use or be a defense article or service with distinct defense applications.
Export controls have an impact on international travel when university equipment or research information is taken abroad, if the equipment or research is export controlled. Additionally, economic sanctions may limit travel to and activities in certain destinations, such as Cuba, Iran and Sudan, or transactions with certain sanctioned parties.
Columns: It sounds like most of the research conducted at UGA is excluded from these controls.
Runge: That's right. The fundamental research exclusion is available except when foreign national participation and/or certain publication limitations are applicable. While these restrictions are generally the exception, the Export Control Office will be available to facilitate compliance. Research equipment, in limited circumstances, may still be subject to controls even when engaging in fundamental research.
Columns: Are UGA researchers the only ones who need to be concerned?
Runge: At the outset of building the export control compliance program, the focus was on research efforts. It rapidly became apparent that this was a universitywide issue that created potential risks and responsibilities in many academic departments as well as units as diverse as EITS, Biosafety, Sponsored Projects, Office of Legal Affairs, Technology Commercialization, Procurement, Accounts Payable, International Education and HR, among others. The Export Control Office has worked with these units to raise awareness and implement process as needed.
Columns: Is export compliance a "when in doubt, call us" kind of thing?
Runge: Yes. There are no dumb questions when it comes to export controls or sanctions compliance.
The Export Control Office is receptive to questions and willing to discuss concerns. To find out more, contact the Export Compliance Office at 706-542-4188, email me at email@example.com or visit http://research.uga.edu/export-control.