The other day I was fortunate enough to sit through a briefing about the Shield America program. Representatives from 3 agencies (DoD, NASA & DHS) were visiting one of our clients to talk about the Shield America program and I was invited to attend. This program covers all technology that the government either buys or sponsors. Any company (and read that as really any ReliAscent client too) may be exposed to the requirements of ITAR, EAR and other controls for technology in the United States. Basically Shield America is an industry outreach and enforcement program developed by the US Immigration and Customs enforcement to prevent illegal export of sensitive US munitions and strategic technologies. The purpose of their visit was mainly to inform. They feel that the more the small contractor knows about these restrictions, the more secure our technology is and, as a result,the safer our warfighters are around the globe. A worst case scenario was a case they investigated a few years ago where an IED that killed some American soldiers was investigated and found to use a sensitive electronic chip manufactured in the US. The objective of these agencies is to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen in the future.
The represntative from the DOD actually works for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Department (or DCIS). Now we have all heard of NCIS (Navy Criminal Investigative Service) from the popular TV shows so when the DCIS shows up, you immediately identify with them. The DCIS performs an integral role in protecting the American warfighter. They conduct investigations all over the world to help deter fraud, waste and abuse within DOD programs and operations. They are the law enforcement arm of the Inspector General within the Department of Defense. They investigate procurement fraud, public corruption, product substitution, counterfiet parts, health care fraud, illegal transfer of sensitive DoD technology and ciber crime.
The primary purpose of their visit was to meet people in companies that did some work (especially SBIR sponsored work) on innovative technologies for the government. They want these people to keep their eyes open for potential cases where possibly a foriegn government or organization is trying to purchase some of these sensitive designs and/or produccts. The message was clear that if the small business recognizes an attempt to get access to sensitive technology, you now have a name and person to call to get involved with the investigation. If you have questions, there are ways to identify what is sensitive. For instance, the EAR list of products identifies which products require an export license and which countries are allowed to export to. ANy questions can be answered directly by the Department of State.
Next week I will dive more deeply into some of these issues such as the ITAR, the EAR listings and how to get clarification on when to get a license and when not to export. I will also review how to deal with attempts to gain access to sensitive infomration.