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What is ITAR Compliance? Electronics Manufacturing Security Standards

itar compliance electronics manufacturing security standardsInternational Traffic and Arms Regulation (ITAR) came about in 1976 because of a need to control the export of military equipment and related sensitive information. Today, government enforcement of these regulations is far stricter than the Cold War days.

As an OEM creating a product for defense/military applications, it’s important to work with an electronics contract manufacturer (ECM) that understands how to adhere to ITAR. Failure on the part of your ECM in understanding ITAR could put your intellectual property at risk -- not to mention the other concerns inherent to national security.

Below we’ll explain what goes into ITAR compliance and what you should expect from any electronics manufacturers with which you partner.

What is ITAR Compliance?

ITAR focuses on military equipment and sensitive information that might be involved with military equipment. It includes, but is definitely not limited to, equipment like:

  • Communication devices
  • Aerospace products
  • Launch vehicles
  • Explosives
  • Aircraft
  • Protective personal equipment
  • Fire control
  • Other military electronics

Again, this list is not comprehensive, so click here for more details straight from the government.

OEMs know that final products may include components manufactured by several different companies. Even those companies building subassemblies and such can still be required to adhere to ITAR. If you need an ECM to adhere to ITAR, you should relay that up front.

The number of things that are subject to ITAR regulations is … substantial. It’s a huge list that includes obvious items and not-so-obvious items.

Some of what ITAR compliance protects includes:

  • Design info
  • Development info
  • Production processes
  • Manufacturing steps
  • Pictures of assemblies
  • Repair processes of specific assemblies
  • Testing protocols
  • Modifications

Things to Remember:

  • ITAR is regulated by the U.S. State Department.
  • ITAR compliance is necessary to earn government contracts in the defense and aerospace industries.
  • Violators can expect a $1 million fine for each infraction.

How ECMs Comply with ITAR

A quality electronics contract manufacturer should verify that ITAR compliance is necessary up front, during the quoting process. That way they can ensure everyone involved in the process is adhering to an ITAR compliance checklist.

The standards for ITAR compliance are the same across the industry, but some contracts go farther than others to ensure protection. Some of the steps ECMs should take include:

  • Posting at all entries that they are an ITAR-regulated facility
  • Limiting those allowed on the manufacturing floor
  • Restricting mobile device use
  • Imposing extra limitations on non-U.S. citizens, both visitors and employees
  • Maintaining a high level of cleanliness, such as keeping drawings put away and out of sight
  • Having everyone use digital workstations that limit access to specific iterations of the process
  • Keeping multiple backups so attacks do not shut down production completely
  • Using a paperless system that ensures all access can be limited and prevents unauthorized viewing of sensitive information

Other Standards Besides ITAR

ITAR is the main standard electronics manufacturers need to pay attention to, but there are additional standards in fields like nuclear technology.

These devices must be handled with extra care, including adhering to standards quite similar to ITAR. These steps include indicating that nuclear material is present on the property and having one individual be “ultimately responsible” for the device.

Loss of IP Hurts Companies

The protection of intellectual property (IP) is important for all companies, not just those producing products covered by ITAR.

Take this real-life example: A wind-generation company once worked with a major Chinese customer. The Chinese paid an employee of that customer to leak design information to them. Eventually, they were able to build a part without the wind generation company’s assistance, so they stopped paying the company for their services. The wind generation company lost significant revenue and had to lay off employees.

Adhering to standards like those demanded by ITAR can do a lot to curtail situations like the one above. With the right security protocols in place and strict adherence, ECMs and OEMs can significantly reduce the risk of intellectual property being compromised.

More Information on ITAR-Compliant Contractors

When you’re dealing with products that must follow ITAR manufacturing security standards, you need to be sure the ECM you’re working with understands what’s at stake. There are too many risks involved for everyone if ITAR is not observed:

  • To your business
  • To the ECM
  • To the nation as a whole

The ITAR adherence process can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. If you do have questions about the process or about finding an ECM with an ITAR license, contact us. It’s 100% on the contract manufacturer to ensure the final outcome of your project is satisfactory to both you and federal regulators.

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