Export Compliance Conversation: Part I: Jennifer Saak of Traliance

Today on the blog is an interview with Jennifer Saak, Managing Director of Traliance, a firm she founded which provides export control services for research and technology organizations in higher education, the non-profit sector, and industry. She has over 20 years of experience in export controls compliance and scientific research. For more information, please visit http://www.traliance.com/.

Jennifer Saak Headshot 3

Dr. Saak provided information about how organizations can start an export compliance program and ensure that export compliance programs run effectively. We’ll also be continuing our conversation about export compliance in a few weeks on the Traliance website.

Trade & Sanctions Law Blog: Where should an organization begin when it’s considering starting an export compliance program?

Dr. Saak: Conducting a systematic export compliance risk assessment is a very effective way to identify the needs for the organization. A thorough risk assessment will help focus the time and resources around mitigating the top risks. Those top risks will vary by organization, depending on the nature of the products and technologies, involvement by non-US persons, and types of international collaborations.

TSLB: What departments or job functions should become involved in export compliance activities and receive export compliance training?

Dr. Saak: Export compliance – and export controls compliance in particular – touches all parts of an organization. While an organization may have a primary resource driving international trade compliance or export compliance it takes a wide range of stakeholders to ensure compliance in day-to-day operational activities. Some less obvious key job functions include Engineering, Human Resources, and Procurement. At minimum, it is highly recommended that all parties receive annual awareness training. Many functions should then also receive focused training on specific compliance processes or risks related to their department.

TSLB: Are there certain best practices or processes an organization can implement to more smoothly and effectively ensure export compliance? 

Dr. Saak: One key best practice for companies is to incorporate an export classification process into their standard operations. Many organizations mistakenly believe that only military or defense applications can trigger export control licensing requirements. The “dual-use” items that have both a military and commercial application take them by surprise. Following a systematic export classification process, I’ve helped companies discover a sizeable number of products in their portfolio that are regulated under specific export control classification numbers on the BIS Commerce Control List.

TSLB: How can item classification be handled in a university setting, given the breadth of research activities that might occur there?

Dr. Saak: Export classification in a university environment versus a corporate setting is a very different issue. The technologies are pushing the boundaries across multiple fields of research. Given the breadth of the research, it’s essential for an export compliance officer to include the Principal Investigator in any classification effort. The analysis must be a two-way dialogue between the researcher and the compliance office.


No statements are intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be construed as legal advice.