Departments of Defense, Energy Open Centers in Russia

Y2K Facility Testing Completed

J. Peter Scoblic

U.S. EFFORTS TO strengthen Russia's safeguards against proliferation moved forward in November with the opening of two centers, one designed to improve security at nuclear facilities and the other to provide economic support to former weapons scientists. Addressing a more immediate security concern, a joint U.S.-Russian Y2K facility developed to monitor missile launches in the weeks surrounding the turn of the new year was completed.

On November 1 the U.S. Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) opened the Security Assessment and Training Center (SATC) in Segiev Possad, 30 miles northeast of Moscow. Established as part of the U.S.-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, the center will test technologies and procedures intended to enhance security at Russia's nuclear weapons facilities. In addition, the $27-million center will bolster the MOD's Personnel Reliability Program, which screens and monitors personnel that safeguard nuclear materials, by providing drug and alcohol testing kits, polygraph systems and other equipment.

Efforts by the Department of Energy (DOE) to stem proliferation from the former Soviet republics also advanced with the November 2 opening of the International Development Center in the formerly closed Russian city of Zheleznogorsk (also known as Krasnoyarsk-26). The center, which is intended to "provide business resources to displaced Russian nuclear scientists, engineers, and technicians" is part of DOE's Nuclear Cities Initiative, a program begun in September 1998 to help the Russian nuclear weapons establishment downsize by finding commercial employment for former weapons scientists and by improving the general economic climate of Russia's once-secret "nuclear cities." The program aims to reduce the risk that financially desperate Russian scientists will peddle their nuclear know-how to terrorists or "rogue" nations for profit.

The success of the opening was marred, however, when U.S. ambassador James F. Collins cancelled his scheduled attendance after Russian officials said they would not allow his science adviser into the city, according to press reports. The incident is one of several in which Russian officials have refused site access to U.S. officials. The Nuclear Cities Initiative has come under financial pressure after Congress decided in October to cut its funding from $15 million in fiscal year (FY) 1999 to $7.5 million in FY 2000. Energy Department officials had initially hoped to expand the program from three cities to 10 and had requested $30 million to do so.

Y2K Center Ready

With just weeks to go before the start of the new year, the Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability (CY2KSS) completed testing in late November. The center is now awaiting general-officer certification and is scheduled to open December 10, according to a U.S. Air Force official. Located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, the center will allow U.S. and Russian military officials to observe and share real-time data on international missile launches to ensure that any Y2K problems that occur in either nation's early-warning computers will not be misinterpreted as an attack, possibly causing the actual launch of nuclear warheads.

Eighteen Russian officers are expected to arrive at CY2KSS on December 21. Round-the-clock operations with U.S. and Russian officials sitting side-by-side monitoring data from satellites and ground-based tracking radar will begin December 30 and will continue through at least the second week of January. According to a report in Aviation Week & Space Technology, in the event a launch is detected, CY2KSS personnel will be able to communicate with U.S. and Russian command authorities via satellite link and dedicated landlines to determine whether the alert indicates an actual attack or a false alarm generated by a computer malfunction.

In 1998 President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin first called for the establishment of a permanent joint early-warning facility to monitor and share information on international launch activity, but delays in opening that facility, which was to be located in Moscow, forced the development of another center that would be ready in time to deal with any Y2K problems.

Earlier this year it was agreed to establish the provisional center in Colorado, but its completion was threatened this spring when Russia withdrew its cooperation following the U.S.-led NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia. However, on September 13 Defense Secretary William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev signed an agreement officially establishing the CY2KSS, and final details were worked out in October.