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A Brief History of the On-Site Inspection Agency
by TSgt David M. Willford, USAF

(Links in text updated 10 June 2012)

OSIA Reference Report No.1


A Brief History
Key Personnel
Operating Locations
Seal of the On-Site Inspection Agency
Treaties and Agreements in Force
Further References

A Brief History

Based on the concept "Trust but Verify", the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, included provisions for on-site inspections to verify the destruction of all intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The treaty called for the elimination of an entire class of weapons, specifically ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Under the inspection protocols, on-site inspectors from each country would monitor compliance with the terms of the INF Treaty. The United States government had no agency to implement these on-site inspections. On January 15, 1988, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 296, instructing the Secretary of Defense to establish a new organization responsible for INF Treaty inspections. Eleven days later, the Secretary of Defense established the On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA), (note 1) a separate operating agency reporting to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition. This created the Agency only on paper, however, with no personnel yet assigned.
Brigadier General Roland Lajoie, United States Army, became the first Director of the On-Site Inspection Agency on February 1, 1988. He was joined a week later, on February 8, by the Agency's initial cadre of 40 military and civilian personnel. With the assignment of this initial group, OSIA took up residence at its first home, temporary offices in the Buzzard Point section of southeast Washington, DC. The first group of Army officers had experience serving in Pershing II battalions, or as military attaches in the USSR, or as officers in the U.S. Military Liaison Mission in Berlin. The first Air Force officers had served in ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) wings, or had spent time as attaches in the Soviet Union. United States Navy and Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel had trained and served as military attaches, line officers, and language specialists. In addition, a few of the officers assigned to the new OSIA had been part of the ten-man Joint Chiefs of Staff task force which set out the Agency's roles and missions prior to its establishment, or had assisted with the final INF Treaty negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The first inspection team chiefs had Russian language skills and small-unit command experience. These skills and experiences proved important in conducting inspections, particularly during the first phase, which set precedents and developed many of the procedures used in later INF inspections. These team chiefs assisted in selecting the rest of the teams, testing, interviewing and choosing the linguists, technical specialists, and others to fill out the teams. Among the initial cadre of enlisted members were a large proportion of Russian linguists, who would serve as translators on United States inspections in the Soviet Union, and as escorts of Soviet inspectors in the United States. The Agency's first order of business consisted of planning for the training of United States teams to conduct inspections in the Soviet Union, along with preparing for escorting Soviet inspectors visiting American INF sites in the United States and Europe. Prior to the treaty entering into force, OSIA conducted mock inspections in the United States and Europe to develop the inspection procedures that teams would use once the actual INF Treaty inspections began.

Following treaty ratification by the United States and Soviet legislatures, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev exchanged the articles of ratification during a June 1, 1988, summit meeting in Moscow. With this, the treaty went into effect. The inspections would not begin for another 30 days. Baseline inspections confirmed the inventory of treaty-limited missiles and equipment. On July 1, the first U.S. baseline inspection was conducted at Rechitsa, USSR, with General Lajoie acting as a team member. Continuous portal monitoring inspections also began on this date, with a United States OSIA team monitoring the missile plant at Votkinsk in the Soviet Union, where the SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missile had been manufactured. Simultaneously, a Soviet team monitored a rocket motor factory in Magna, Utah, which had previously built the first stage of the Pershing II missile. Within a matter of weeks, the Soviet Union and the United States began to eliminate their stockpiles of intermediate-range missiles, with inspectors observing all eliminations. The Soviet Union conducted its first elimination on July 22, 1988, destroying an SS-20 missile at Kapustin Yar. The United States eliminated a Pershing I rocket motor as its initial elimination on September 8, 1988, at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant in Texas.

Eliminations continued for three years, until May 1991, with the United States destroying 846 intermediate-range missiles and the Soviet Union destroying 1,846 missiles stipulated by the INF Treaty. The final United States elimination took place on May 6, 1991, at Longhorn, Texas, while the last Soviet elimination occurred on May 12 at Kapustin Yar. Although all of the weapons systems covered by the INF Treaty had been destroyed, the treaty stipulated that portal monitoring and periodic short-notice inspections would continue for another ten years, verifying that neither side rebuilt its intermediate-range nuclear forces. During the elimination phase of the INF Treaty, the On-Site Inspection Agency gained several new responsibilities and moved into a new headquarters. The move to its current location at Dulles International Airport took place in February 1989.

In May 1990, President Bush directed an expansion of the OSIA mission to prepare for inspections under several new arms control treatiesThe new tasking called for the Agency to plan for inspections to support the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), two nuclear test agreements - the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET), and various chemical weapons agreements including the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Although none of these agreements had yet entered into force, several were in the final stages of negotiation and the Bush administration wanted to ensure that the United States would have the immediate capability of meeting the on-site inspection and escort provisions of these treaties once they entered into force.

On June 1,1990, President Bush and General Secretary Gorbachev signed new protocols to two nuclear testing treaties: the Threshold Test Ban Treatyand Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty. The Threshold Test Ban Treaty and Protocols were ratified by both the United States Senate and the Supreme Soviet by November, and they entered into force on December 11, 1990 In June 1990, OSIA inspectors also took part in the first inspections under its new mission of monitoring chemical weapons agreements. Under Phase I of the Wyoming MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), the United States and the Soviet Union began a series of reciprocal visits to each other's chemical weapons facilities. The same month, June 1990, the two countries signed the Destruction and Non-Production Agreement, a bilateral accord which set a schedule to reduce the chemical stockpiles of the United States and Soviet Union and prohibited the further manufacture of chemical warfare agents. Meanwhile, negotiations for the CFE Treaty were in the final stages in the summer and fall of 1990. The leaders of 22 nations, including the U.S., USSR, Germany, France, and Great Britain, signed the treaty in Paris, France, on November 19, 1990. Later, the breakup of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia expanded the number of CFE Treaty parties to 30. Under the CFE Treaty, parties agreed to reduce the level of military equipment stationed in Europe. Unlike the INF Treaty, reductions under the CFE Treaty did not eliminate all weapons in any category. Rather, the treaty specified ceilings on equipment such as tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and helicopters. The On-Site Inspection Agency's role in the CFE Treaty involved on-site inspection teams verifying the amount of equipment in use, monitoring the reduction of equipment declared excess under the treaty, and escorting the Warsaw Pact inspection teams inspecting U.S. military sites in Western Europe. Inherent in this charter was the requirement to closely interact with NATO Headquarters and conducting liaison activities at American facilities located on the territory of other NATO nations.
While INF inspections, and preparations for inspections under these new treaties, continued in late 1990 and early 1991, the On-Site Inspection Agency underwent a change of leadership. In late January, General Lajoie, who had been selected for promotion to Major General during his tenure at OSIA, departed for a new assignment. Brigadier General (later promoted to Major General) Robert W. Parker, United States Air Force, became Director, OSIA on January 25, 1991.
Due to the expansion of the OSIA charter, the Agency grew in size. When the Agency dealt almost exclusively with the INF Treaty, it grew from the initial cadre of 40 people in February 1988 to 245 people at the end of 1990. Preparations for multiple treaty responsibilities caused the Agency to more than double in size during 1991, reaching 517 personnel by the end of the year. The CFE Treaty accounted for much of this manpower increase. With the large number of inspections that CFE would require, the fact that the multilateral CFE Treaty had six official languages, and the possibility of multinational inspection teams, OSIA found that it would need additional team chiefs, linguists, inspectors, and liaison officers. The CFE mission caused an especially large growth in the Agency's European detachment, with OSIA-Europe growing from 20 to 120 people. Other treaties required additional specialists and increased support personnel, so the Agency continued to grow. During 1992, OSIA manning passed the 600 mark, and by the end of 1994, the Agency had over 760 civilians and military personnel assigned worldwide.
In February 1991, inspection and escort teams from the United States and the Soviet Union met to coordinate the first monitoring of a nuclear test under the Threshold Test Ban Treaty. This TTBT mission involved a Soviet team monitoring an American nuclear test. After one United States test in 1991 and another in 1992, both monitored by on-site teams from the former USSR, the national leaders of the USSR and U.S. placed a moratorium on all nuclear tests. President Clinton extended the United States moratorium until September 30, 1995, and Russian President Yeltsin agreed to extend the Russian moratorium to the same date. While neither country has conducted tests since, the treaty and its protocols remain in effect should the moratorium end.
In May 1991, the OSIA began conducting mock inspections in Western Europe and the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, to prepare for the CFE Treaty, which had not yet entered into force. These mock inspections would continue for a year, reaching a total of about 100 by the time the CFE Treaty entered into force, and the actual inspection regime began. The treaty began provisional application on July 17, 1992, and officially entered into force on November 9, 1992.
The Agency gained yet another mission on June 7, 1991, when the National Security Council tasked the OSIA with inspection and escort responsibilities under the Vienna Document of 1990. These inspection duties continued under the Vienna Document of 1992, signed on March 24, 1992. The Vienna Document, which currently includes the participation of 53 nations, stipulated the exchange of military force information among treaty countries, periodic inspections of forces, and on-site monitoring of large-scale military movements or exercises.
On July 11, 1991, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition added another mission, making OSIA the Department of Defense (DOD) Executive Agent responsible for supporting inspections conducted by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq. This multi-national UN commission was set up to ensure that Iraq fulfilled its post-war commitments under UN Resolution 687 to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. The On-Site Inspection Agency coordinated Department of Defense support to the Special Commission, which included linguists, weapons experts, surveillance flights, and staff personnel.
President Bush and President Gorbachev signed the START I Treaty on July 31, 1991. This agreement mandated a substantial reduction in the strategic arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union, providing for, among other things, a substantial reduction in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads for both countries. The On-Site Inspection Agency would train and deploy inspection and escort teams to observe the elimination of START Treaty-limited items, perform continuous portal monitoring, and conduct short-notice inspections to confirm the reduction of Soviet strategic nuclear forces.
Three weeks after the START I signing, a group of hard-line Communists in the Soviet government attempted to overthrow President Gorbachev. Although the coup failed, its repercussions led to the abolishment of the Communist Party and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In early December, the emerging independent states of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus formed the Commonwealth of Independent States. Within a matter of weeks, the Commonwealth of Independent States consisted of ten nations. During these turbulent times, implementation of arms control treaties continued, with START exhibition inspections conducted at sites in the United States and Soviet Union between September 1991 and February 1992, and with INF Treaty inspections, including portal monitoring, continuing without interruption.
The collapse of the Soviet Union caused widespread economic and social problems throughout the former Soviet republics. In response to the suffering, the United States provided humanitarian assistance in the form of food and medical supplies. The On-Site Inspection Agency supported this humanitarian mission, called Provide Hope, which was conceived by Secretary of State James Baker in January 1992. In less than three weeks, OSIA teams were in the states of the former Soviet Union preparing to distribute food and medicines. Due to its large staff of Russian linguists and the experience gained conducting treaty inspections in the Soviet Union, General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, selected OSIA to coordinate the distribution effort in Russia and the other former Soviet republics. The first phase of Provide Hope lasted from February 10 to February 26, 1992. The On-Site Inspection Agency deployed 38 people in 12 teams, and they distributed over 2,200 tons of food and medical supplies to 25 cities. A second, larger, phase involved 120 people from OSIA, who helped distribute over 25,000 tons of humanitarian aid to 28 cities in the former Soviet Union between April and August of 1992. During Phase II, much of the distribution was handed over to private charitable organizations such as CARE. Agency participation in the third phase of Operation Provide Hope consisted of 68 people in 25 teams, who assisted the State Department in coordinating the distribution of aid from October 1992 to September 1993. Phase III of Provide Hope distributed over 43,000 tons of food, medical supplies, and other aid, in addition to setting up 1,000-bed Army hospitals to supply medical care. This third phase was more centralized, with aid delivered to Moscow and then distributed to the outlying areas of the former Soviet Union. Aid to the former Soviet Union continued after Provide Hope III ended, but private organizations accomplished the local distribution of supplies while the State Department coordinated the shipment of aid into the region. Personnel of OSIA continued to assist in the humanitarian effort, but the maturing of the distribution system led to increased efficiency and allowed it to proceed with a much smaller scale of OSIA involvement. Phase IV of Operation Provide Hope, from October 1993 to September 1994, involved 13 teams from OSIA, with a total of 35 people helping to distribute aid in seven locations.
The United States entered into another treaty, with tasking for the OSIA, on March 24, 1992. The Open Skies Treaty, which allowed monitoring overflights of its signatory nations, was signed by 24 nations in Helsinki, Finland. The On-Site Inspection Agency officially received responsibility from the National Security Council for conducting Open Skies flights on November 24, 1992. The Air Force's 55th Reconnaissance Wing provided the OC-135B surveillance aircraft, a modified KC-135 tanker, which had served as a weather observation platform, and was then outfitted specifically for Open Skies missions. The On-Site Inspection Agency played a role in planning the missions and would have treaty-knowledgeable personnel aboard the aircraft for overflights.
That same year, the CFE Treaty entered into force. On the date of its provisional entry into force, July 17, 1992, the CFE Treaty's 120-day baseline inspection period began. Two days later, the OSIA conducted its first inspection under the CFE Treaty at Buy, Russia. The first inspection of United States forces by members of the former Soviet Union took place on August 14, 1992, at Giebelstadt, Germany. In the 120 days of the baseline period, the United States, through OSIA, conducted 44 inspections of other nations' military assets in Europe, while U.S. military installations in Europe received 23 inspections by teams from Eastern Bloc CFE Treaty nations.
January 1993 brought even further expansion of the OSIA role, with the START II Treaty signed by President Bush and Russian President Yeltsin on January 3 and the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention signed by more than 120 nations on January 13. Eventually, the number of CWC signatories reached 158. The START II Treaty had inspection and escort protocols which OSIA would implement for the United States. On July 30, 1993, Brigadier General Gregory G. Govan, United States Army, replaced  General Parker as Director of the On-Site Inspection Agency. In addition to its numerous treaty missions, the OSIA also fulfills other duties, such as training U.S. Forces Korea in preparation for on-site inspections under any future nuclear treaty that South Korea and North Korea should enter into. OSIA has also provided Russian linguists to assist in many national exchange programs, especially the military-to-military efforts with Russian armed forces.
The bulk of the Agency's inspection activities during 1993 and 1994 involved the CFE Treaty, and the continuing INF Treaty on-site inspections: portal monitoring and short-notice. The massive numbers of treaty-limited equipment slated for reduction under the CFE Treaty ensured that the United States (OSIA) would conduct many CFE reduction inspections over the first years of the treaty. The reduction period began on November 13, 1992, with completion of the baseline inspection period. It would last three years. At the end of the first year, treaty parties agreed to eliminate 25 percent of their treaty-limited equipment, with requirements of 60 percent at the end of the second year, and 100 percent the third year. All signatories met the 25 percent goal when the first reduction year ended in November 1993, and as the second reduction year ended in November 1994, the parties met the 60 percent reduction goal with only small discrepancies by two countries in one class of equipment, while these same countries were well ahead of schedule in reducing other classes of treaty-limited equipment. The number of inspections conducted by all 30 signatories to the treaty neared 1,000. As of August 1994, the OSIA had conducted 139 inspections under the CFE Treaty, and United States forces in Europe had received 38 inspections by other treaty parties.
Several significant events took place during these inspections. Starting in the baseline period, the United States included members from other NATO nations on its inspection teams. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the assumptions underlying treaty implementation. The Cold War treaty structure of NATO versus the Warsaw Pact had become obsolete. East European nations sought to participate in CFE inspections of their neighboring states. They did so, joining inspection teams from many NATO nations. In September 1994, the OSIA included for the first time Russian personnel in a United States-led CFE inspection of Romania.
In the fall of 1991, after the signing of the START I Treaty, President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union requested Western assistance in dismantling the Soviet nuclear arsenal. President Bush agreed to provide U.S. assistance in the storage, transportation, dismantling and destruction of Soviet nuclear weapons. The governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy also agreed to help the Soviet Union reduce its arsenal. A few months later the Soviet Union collapsed, separating into 15 independent states, four of which - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan - possessed nuclear weapons. Although these four new nuclear states agreed to abide by the Soviet Union's START Treaty obligations through the Lisbon Protocol of May 1992, political uncertainty in the new nations raised concerns about the ability of the former Soviet states to control their nuclear weapons, fissile material, and nuclear technology, along with their chemical weapons stockpiles. The United States, through Nunn-Lugar Public Law 102-228, established the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program. The program provided equipment and technical assistance to the former Soviet republics for use in the destruction and demilitarization of chemical and nuclear weapons covered by various treaties, and also provided U.S. assistance in the demilitarization of defense industries in the former Soviet Union, and in the safeguarding and disposal of fissile materials. For Fiscal Year 1994 the Nunn-Lugar legislation allotted 400 million dollars to assist in transportation, storage, safeguarding, and destruction of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The On-Site Inspection Agency would play a supporting role in Cooperative Threat Reduction, with OSIA personnel escorting CTR equipment to sites within the former Soviet Union, and auditing and examining the use of the equipment to ensure it was being utilized for its intended purpose.
In 1993 and 1994, OSIA also continued work on the Defense Treaty Inspection Readiness Program (DTIRP). Under the treaties, principally START, Open Skies, and the various chemical weapons agreements, civilian businesses involved in the defense industry were liable to visits by foreign inspection teams. The treaties allowed monitoring of plant portals, aerial surveillance, and on-site inspection. The Department of Defense instituted DTIRP to ensure that the United States could meet its treaty responsibilities while also ensuring that private industries could protect their non-treaty-related classified or proprietary information. The program provided vulnerability assessments and other technical advice from many different government agencies to assist contractors in preparing for treaty on-site inspection teams or other types of treaty monitoring. The Agency received responsibility under this program in June 1992, and since then the OSIA has assisted civilian businesses in planning and preparing for intrusive inspection under the existing arms control treaties and agreements.
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Note 1 -- As of October 1998, OSIA is an activity of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Last update 08 September 2018

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