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The three federal departments with primary responsibility for administering export-control regulations are Commerce, State and Treasury. The Justice Department, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Census Bureau and FBI also play varying roles.

Commerce Department

The Bureau of Industry and Security handles export controls. It administers the Export Administration Regulations and the Commerce Control List, which contains thousands of potentially sensitive items for export from the United States. Items covered include computers, fiber optics and machine tools that have certain positioning accuracies.

In fiscal 2011, 25,093 licenses to export were issued by the Bureau of Industry and Security.

State Department

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls handles export controls. It oversees the sale of defense articles and also the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the U.S. Munitions List. Items covered include tanks, fighter aircraft and items specifically designed to go in military equipment.

One aspect of export-control reform is to change the regulations so that a bolt specifically designed for an F-18 is not as tightly controlled as the F-18 itself.

In the 2012 calendar year, there were 87,250 licenses to export that the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls was on pace to issue.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control handles export controls. It administers trade sanctions against countries such as Cuba, Syria and Sudan. Regulations prohibit many types of financial transactions, investments, exports and imports to and from prohibited countries. The office is responsible for maintaining the economic sanctions the U.S. exerts against Iran.

There are more than 6,000 people and companies with whom Americans are barred from doing business, according to a list maintained by office.