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September 23, 09

NEWS / U.S., Russia to Share Warning Data on Missile, Space Launches

Efforts intensify to make U.S.-Russian Joint Data Exchange Center a reality

By Carlos Aranaga
Staff Writer

Washington — A decade after the United States and Russia agreed to the first permanent joint effort to curb the risk of false warnings of ballistic missile attack, the two governments have intensified their efforts to establish a Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC), as well as to put into place a Pre-Launch Notification System (PLNS).

The JDEC’s mission, according to U.S. officials, is to promote confidence between the United States and Russia by mitigating the risk that a retaliatory strike will be launched based on erroneous information caused by a false warning of a ballistic missile attack generated by either the Russian or the U.S. early warning system, U.S. officials told America.gov.

The JDEC will be located in Moscow, with U.S. and Russian military personnel working side by side around the clock, 365 days a year. These personnel will use displays of worldwide information derived from U.S. and Russian early warning sensors on launches of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, according to U.S. officials.

The JDEC and PLNS agreements, signed in 2000, represent milestones in the effort to bolster strategic stability between the United States and Russia. The PLNS expands on the exchange of notifications already required by existing arms control agreements such as the 1991 START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and the 1998 Ballistic Missile Launch Notification Agreement. Besides calling for notice of ballistic missile and space launches, the PLNS agreement also calls for a voluntary mutual sharing of information on falling satellites and on space experiments that might impair the work of early-warning radar systems (the JDEC agreement also calls for such a voluntary sharing of information).

The JDEC will house the PLNS, which will be an Internet-based mechanism for the exchange of U.S. and Russian pre- and post-launch notifications. Once the PLNS is implemented bilaterally, the United States and Russia intend to open it to voluntary participation by interested countries.

U.S. missile defense and space policy experts say the JDEC provides a chance for even greater cooperation by allowing the United States and Russia to work together to report on third-country launches that either may directly threaten, or be misconstrued to threaten, each nation’s territory.

U.S. officials say growth in the number of space-faring nations in the nearly 10 years since the JDEC and PLNS agreements were signed make minimizing the consequences of a false attack warning an even more necessary and urgent mission.

Especially in the last decade, the global security environment has become more marked by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as by ballistic missiles of increasingly greater ranges, sophistication, payloads and lethality. JDEC will be a venue for early-warning analysis and the first full-time U.S.-Russian joint military operation in the strategic arena, U.S. officials say. U.S. military personnel will be able to immediately explain any unexpected launch event or ambiguity to their Russian counterparts, and vice versa, they say.

JDEC and PLNS represent efforts to implement the intentions initially set forth in 1998 by the U.S. and Russian presidents in their Joint Statement on the Exchange of Information on Missile Launches and Early Warning. Work to bring these ideas to fruition slowed in recent years over impasses regarding taxation and liability provisions in the JDEC agreement. U.S. officials have intensified efforts to narrow the gaps, and implementation of JDEC and PLNS is currently a part of active discussions with Russia, officials say.

“There are ongoing negotiations to resolve some of the outstanding issues thus far preventing the JDEC and PLNS from being implemented,” a U.S. Department of State official said.

“We’ve discussed this in many bilateral, face-to-face negotiations with the Russian Federation, both in Washington, D.C., as well as in Moscow,” the official said. “There’s been a flurry of negotiations in 2007 and 2008, and we are now getting back to resolving these issues.

“There has been progress during the Obama administration; we’ve made key breakthroughs, but still we do not yet have agreement on both the liability and tax issues,” the official said.

On the need for confidence-building in areas such as data exchange, as mandated by the 1991 START, the former U.S. Strategic Command commander and current U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman, General James E. Cartwright, said to Arms Control Today, “The attributes that you would seek are transparency, the ability to generate warning time, and confidence in what the intentions are of a counterpart.”

Finally, U.S. physical site security experts briefed Russian Ministry of Defense counterparts in 2008 regarding post-September 11 physical site security requirements for the JDEC facility. An existing building had been agreed upon in the June 2000 JDEC memorandum of agreement, but it no longer meets increased U.S. security standards.




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