Best Practices for Managing Manufacturing License Agreements (MLAs) in the ITAR

Managing Manufacturing License Agreements (MLAs) under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a complex task that demands meticulous attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the regulatory framework. MLAs are essential for U.S. companies involved in the defense and aerospace industries, as they enable the authorized production of controlled defense articles by foreign entities. To ensure compliance and success in the international defense market, it’s crucial to follow best practices when managing MLAs under ITAR. In this blog post, we will explore key practices that can help you navigate the intricacies of MLAs effectively.

  1. Establish a Comprehensive Compliance Program

Before engaging in any MLA negotiations, it’s vital to have a robust ITAR compliance program in place. This program should encompass policies, procedures, and personnel training to ensure everyone involved understands their responsibilities and obligations. Regular audits and assessments of your compliance program will help identify and address any potential issues.

  1. Conduct Due Diligence

Thorough due diligence is critical when considering potential foreign partners for MLAs. This includes investigating the foreign entity’s reputation, financial stability, and compliance history. Additionally, assess their technical capabilities and the specific defense articles or services they will be manufacturing.

  1. Understand the ITAR Classification

Before drafting an MLA, you must correctly classify the defense articles involved. A clear understanding of the U.S. Munitions List (USML) categories and their corresponding Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCNs) is essential. This classification will determine whether an MLA is even necessary and which specific ITAR requirements apply.

  1. Engage Subject Matter Experts

Engaging personnel with expertise in ITAR and international trade is indispensable. Experienced practitioners can guide you through the MLA approval process, ensuring that the agreement aligns with ITAR requirements and protects your interests.

  1. Define Clear Terms and Conditions

MLAs should outline specific terms and conditions governing the transfer of technology, technical data, and defense articles. Ensure that the agreement covers important aspects such as scope, duration, export controls, intellectual property rights, and compliance monitoring.

  1. Secure Required Licenses

Before exporting any defense articles, you must obtain the necessary export licenses from the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). Ensure that your MLA explicitly states the requirements for obtaining and maintaining these licenses.

  1. Implement Effective Record-Keeping

Maintaining accurate and detailed records is a fundamental aspect of ITAR compliance. Establish a comprehensive record-keeping system that includes all MLA-related documents, communications, and compliance records. These records should be readily accessible for inspection by regulatory authorities.  Specifically, records will be used for maintaining and filing the Annual Sales Reports (ASRs) as required under your MLA.

  1. Ongoing Compliance Monitoring

ITAR compliance doesn’t end once an MLA is in place. Implement a robust system for ongoing compliance monitoring. Regularly assess the performance of your foreign partners, conduct internal audits, and promptly address any compliance issues that arise.

  1. Training and Awareness

Continuously educate your employees and partners about ITAR regulations and the specific provisions of the MLA. Conduct regular training sessions and ensure that everyone involved is aware of their responsibilities.

  1. Seek Expert Guidance

Given the complexity of ITAR and MLAs, it’s advisable to seek guidance from consultants and experts with experience in export controls and international trade. They can provide valuable insights and help navigate the intricacies of ITAR compliance.


Managing Manufacturing License Agreements under ITAR requires a proactive approach that prioritizes compliance and risk mitigation. By following these best practices, you can establish a strong foundation for successful international partnerships while ensuring that your operations remain in full compliance with the ITAR. Remember that ITAR is a dynamic regulatory framework, so staying informed about changes and updates is essential to maintaining a competitive edge in the global defense market.