Executive Branch Foreign Relations & International Law

The Lawfare Podcast: Assistant Secretary Matt Axelrod on Enforcing Export Controls

Scott R. Anderson, Brandon L. Van Grack, Matt Axelrod, Jen Patja
Friday, November 17, 2023, 8:01 AM
How is the Biden administration enforcing export controls?

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The United States has long set restrictions on the export of certain sensitive goods and technologies, particularly to strategic rivals. But over the past several years, we have seen first the Trump and now the Biden administrations use the legal authorities behind these export controls in new and innovative ways, for purposes ranging from limiting China’s access to key emerging technologies to stymying Russia’s military effectiveness in Ukraine. The only problem is, once you impose these restrictions, you then have to enforce them—and that’s not always an easy task.

To learn more about how the Biden administration is taking on this challenge, Lawfare Contributing Editor Brandon Van Grack and Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with Matthew Axelrod, Assistant Secretary of Export Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. They discussed how export control enforcement works; the sorts of coordination it requires with industry and foreign countries, friendly and unfriendly; and what new enforcement strategies the United States is pursuing as the use of export controls changes.

This is the latest episode of “The Regulators,” a special series Lawfare is co-producing with the law firm Morrison & Foerster, where Brandon is a partner. Each episode, Brandon and Scott sit down with some of the senior U.S. policymakers responsible for crafting and implementing the cutting edge policies that are defining our new era of economic statecraft. 

Scott R. Anderson is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He previously served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as the legal advisor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Brandon L. Van Grack is a partner and co-chair of the National Security and Crisis Management practices at Morrison & Foerster LLP. He is a former senior national security official at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served as Chief of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit, Senior Assistant Special Counsel to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, Trial Attorney in the Counterintelligence & Export Control Section, and as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Matthew Axelrod currently serves as the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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