FBI Counterproliferation Center

FBI Counterproliferation Center Seal

The spread of WMD and other technologies is a significant threat to U.S. national security. That’s why the FBI established its Counterproliferation Center (CPC) in 2011. A component of the National Security Branch, the CPC combines the counterproliferation expertise of the Bureau’s Counterintelligence Division, WMD Directorate, and Directorate of Intelligence.

All FBI counterproliferation investigations are managed by the CPC, which leverages law enforcement and intelligence techniques to prevent the acquisition of WMD and critical controlled technologies. Collaborative efforts with the Bureau’s federal partners and the private sector play an important role in these efforts.


Counterproliferation involves efforts to combat the spread or growth of weapons—conventional weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and related technology—that threaten the United States.

A number of U.S. government agencies—including law enforcement, licensing, and intelligence entities—are involved in the effort to restrict the sale, or theft, of restricted U.S. technologies to foreign nations, terrorist organizations, and others who would do our country harm.

Methods used to counter this threat vary—from diplomatic efforts and licensing restrictions to export enforcement and counterintelligence/foreign intelligence efforts.

Among those methods, the FBI is involved in export enforcement as appropriate, working with its partners on investigations into violations of export regulations that can lead to civil, administrative, and criminal punishments. In conjunction with its intelligence community partners, the Bureau harvests and uses foreign intelligence as it relates to proliferation efforts.

The FBI is the lead U.S. agency in the counterintelligence realm, and as such works—once again, with its partners—to identify, neutralize, or otherwise disrupt proliferation networks that often span the globe. Those partners include the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations.

FBI Role/Authorities 

Although the FBI has the authority to investigate counterproliferation matters under its general criminal jurisdiction, its primary investigative jurisdiction is based on the Bureau’s mandate to coordinate all counterintelligence activities within the U.S. (as counterproliferation cases are handled under its counterintelligence program).

The FBI derives its authorities to conduct counterproliferation and export enforcement investigations from the following laws and executive orders:

  • 28 CFR 0.85(a): This law gives the FBI general jurisdiction to investigate violations of all laws, except in cases in which such responsibility is by statute or otherwise exclusively assigned to another investigative agency. As export enforcement laws are not exclusively assigned to any other agency, the FBI is mandated to investigate violations of these laws, including the Arms Export Control Act, International Traffic in Arms Regulations, International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Export Administration Regulations, and Trading with the Enemy Act.
  • 28 CFR 0.85(d): This mandate to take the lead in counterintelligence matters goes back to the FBI’s historical authority granted in 1939 by presidential directives to take charge of investigative work in matters relating to espionage, sabotage, subversive activities, and related matters, including investigating potential violations of the Arms Export Control Act, the Export Administration Act, the Trading with the Enemy Act, or the International Economic Powers Act relating to any foreign counterintelligence matter.
  • 28 CFR 0.85(l): This counterterrorism mandate gives the FBI lead agency responsibility in investigating all crimes for which it has primary or concurrent jurisdiction and which involve terrorist activities or acts in preparation of terrorist activities within the statutory jurisdiction of the U.S.
  • 28 CFR 0.89: This law delegates to the FBI Director the authority to seize “arms and munitions of war and other articles” under certain conditions.
  • Executive Order 12333, Section 1.3(b)(20)(A): This order gives the Director of the FBI authority to coordinate counterintelligence activities inside the United States.
  • Executive Order 12333, Section 1.4(h): This order requires all members of the U.S. Intelligence Community to coordinate counterintelligence activities in this country with the FBI in accordance with 1.3(b)(20).
  • Executive Order 12333 Section 1.5(g): This order requires all executive branch agencies to coordinate counterintelligence activities in the U.S. with the FBI in accordance with 1.3(b)(20).

Inside the CPC 

The counterproliferation threat facing the U.S. includes ongoing efforts by nation-states to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD); the increase of advanced weapons technology worldwide; and attempts by terrorist groups to obtain WMD or advanced weapons technology.

In July 2011, responding to the threat, the FBI combined three counterproliferation-related components into a single jointly-managed entity at FBI Headquarters—the Counterproliferation Center (CPC)—to disrupt global proliferation networks. The three components include:

  • The WMD Directorate, which provides scientific expertise;
  • The Counterintelligence Division, which provides operational expertise; and
  • The Directorate of Intelligence, which provides analytical expertise.

The creation of the CPC has resulted in an expanded counterproliferation mandate and enhanced coordination among various related components, including agents, analysts, and professional staff.

The CPC mission is to lead the FBI’s efforts to identify, deny, disrupt, and exploit attempts to obtain or divert embargoed, export-controlled, or otherwise sensitive technologies or activities related to WMD (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive), missile delivery systems, space or conventional weapons systems, or dual-use components. CPC personnel also work to identify critical intelligence gaps in the current threat environment, look at proliferation threats emerging on the horizon, and develop strategies to ensure that the FBI continues to be well-positioned to address the counterproliferation threats of today and tomorrow.

To accomplish its mission, the CPC:

  • Focuses resources on the identification, penetration, mitigation, and disruption of proliferation networks that are engaged in efforts to acquire and utilize WMD and critical controlled U.S. technologies;
  • Provides support, direction, and guidance for investigations and operations involving violations of the Arms Export Control Act, Export Administration Act, Trading with the Enemy Act, and International Emergency Economic Powers Act in furtherance of non-proliferation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention, Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Wassenaar Agreement;
  • Acts as the intermediary focal point for the liaison with the U.S. intelligence community, federal law enforcement, and global partners on all FBI counterproliferation matters;
  • Leverages both intelligence and law enforcement, as well as techniques to counter the ever-changing proliferation threat;
  • Maintains comprehensive knowledge of all pending counterproliferation investigations and proliferation trends, specifically those with an established nexus to WMD information, technology, equipment, and export-controlled military and dual-use items or items controlled under sanctions with weapon applications;
  • Centralizes the production and integration of all-source intelligence to provide FBI field offices with strategic threat and network information; and
  • Coordinates and manages training requirements for counterproliferation with the Counterintelligence Training Center and other entities to ensure investigators and analysts have the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively carry out the FBI’s counterproliferation mission.

Multi-Agency Counterproliferation Efforts 

The FBI Counterproliferation Center works closely with other U.S. government centers, most notably:

Export Enforcement Coordination Center

Export Enforcement Coordination Center, which is managed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, serves as a conduit between federal law enforcement and U.S. intelligence agencies for the exchange of information related to potential U.S. export control violations.

For more information, visit the Export Enforcement Coordination Center website.

National Counterproliferation Center

National Counterproliferation Center, which falls under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, helps lead U.S. intelligence agencies in developing integrated strategies and actions to counter current WMD threats and to anticipate and counter future threats.

For more information, visit the National Counterproliferation Center website.

Internal Partners