13 May 2007
If any of you have tried to email me, or tried to call me between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm EDT, you may have noticed that I'm simply not there. Where am I?
Once a year the client I work for, the Naval Treaty Implementation Program (NTIP), carries out a Challenge Inspection Training Exercise (CITE). For those interested in international law and arms control regimes, read the next few paragraphs and find out what a CITE is. For those of you already bored, skip a bit.
The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the production, development, stockpiling, or use of any and all chemical weapons, and the United States happens to be a party to the treaty. Being a party isn't a huge deal for a lot of nations, but it is for the USA. The Cold War arms race wasn't just about stockpiling nukes; the USSR spent a lot of money developing and stockpiling chemical munitions as well, and we followed suit. Now the USA and Russia literally have tons of chemical weapons to destroy, and we have until 2012 to do it (neither country will make the deadline, by the way).
The U.S. Army is in charge of properly storing and destroying all of the United States' chemical weapons. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an international body created by the CWC, takes charge of verifying the proper storage and disposal of the agents. So really, the Department of the Navy should have nothing to do with this.
However! The CWC contains a provision allowing for challenge inspections. A challenge inspection is the result of one state suspecting another state of not abiding by the rules of the treaty. For example, Belarus could accuse the United States of hiding undeclared CW agents in unused bunkers at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. Or Senegal could accuse the Navy of developing chemical weapons under the guise of defense research at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).
As of yet, there have been no challenge inspections under the CWC. Every state that could initiate one can also be relatively sure of a reciprocal challenge from the state they accuse. But if there were to be a challenge inspection, Russia and the United States would be the two most likely candidates.
So we practice, we exercise. And that's what I'll be doing this week. Many of the employees of my company and most of the government workers at my client site will be staying four nights at the luxurious Dahlgren Comfort Inn, right next to NSWCDD. There I will spend several humid days pretending like I'm helping prepare the base for a challenge inspection carried out by the OPCW and the fictitious Republic of Simón Bolívar, our accuser. Most of my days will last 10-12 hours, after which I will eat dinner at any number of fine local restaurants (from Uncle Dave's Somethin' Different Café to the appetizingly named Crabby Oyster). I'll be back Thursday night, at which time I will regain email access.
In the meantime, do feel free to drop me an e-line or to comment on the blog. I'll let you know how everything went on my return.