F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. –
Members of the Mighty Ninety’s treaty office and members of both the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s East and West Coast teams conducted a mock treaty inspection on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, July 12 - 14, 2023.
Previously, F.E. Warren Air Force Base was subject to the possibility of inspections by Russian inspectors as part of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
DTRA teams continue to train on the various aspects of the New START Treaty, preparing for the event that inspections resume and an inspection team from Russia visits the U.S.
“The New START treaty paused when COVID kicked off. We paused for two weeks, then a year and a half later, we were ready to resume; however, Russia is having other international issues that prevents them from coming to conduct these inspections,” said Michael Melton, DTRA senior operations specialist. “However, we do these mock inspections because it ensures that the bases are prepared and we do these inspections to make sure that our teams are prepared.”
While base personnel study to remain familiar with inspection protocol, mocks like these allow personnel to sharpen their skills in an environment as close to a real inspection as possible.
“They know how to do an inspection and they know how to escort and they know what to look for,” said Melton. “There's a lot of different parts in these and that's why these mock inspections are so critical.”
DTRA’s main job is to ensure that all aspects of the treaty are implemented correctly and adhere to both US government policy and international law. This applies to all the various elements of the inspection, including the pre-inspection workups and the actual inspection out in the field both in the US and in Russia.
The treaty has two types of inspections: a type one inspection at operational bases and a type two inspection normally at facilities that support the operational nuclear forces. A type two inspection mainly consists of verifying exchanged treaty data on delivery systems (rocket first stages) at storage sites without warheads, whereas a type one inspection includes counting deployed warheads and verifying compliance to the treaty in the field. F.E. Warren is considered a type one inspection base due to the Mighty Ninety’s mission.
“It is very critical to continue with the mocks because inspections are a fragile and perishable skill. Arms Control Inspections can be very different and if you don't have a team that knows how to do this and all the intricacies, it can be very difficult to start from scratch,” added Melton. “That's why during this pause we try to do as many mocks as we can.”
The DTRA East team had members acting as Russian inspectors to provide the escort team with as close to a real-world experience as possible. From the pre-inspection briefing to the verification of the coordinates for the launch sites chosen, teams practiced how they played.
“Mocks help the folks that have that experience knowing how these different procedures and processes work, and then also being able to pass down that experience and knowledge to the next generation,” said Michele Schriml, DTRA senior international relations specialist. “With folks retiring and new people coming in, it makes these mock inspections so important, where you're introducing this concept and idea to a whole new generation. You’re expanding the knowledge and showing everyone the importance of it all.”
The DTRA team is prepared for when the dialogue between the U.S. and Russia will reopen the possibility of in-country inspections in Russia and in the US.
Though the inspections have been put on an indefinite pause, DTRA and the various military agencies involved in the nuclear mission do not intend to stop practicing in preparation for the treaty to resume.
“With everything that's going on with the world, a lot of people probably don't have as much concern, but it's one of those things where the mocks play a very important role in keeping up our readiness and ensuring our adherence,” said Schriml. “It has us prepared for everything that could happen if things do change with current relations with Russia, so we will be ready at a moment's notice and we can continue doing what we've been doing for the past 20 plus years.”