U.S., Russia launch joint missile-warning center

Building on the success of a joint Year 2000 venture, Pentagon and Russian

military officials have signed an agreement to build a high-tech center

near Moscow where both sides can monitor the globe for ballistic missile

launches.

Senior officials from both countries signed an agreement to build the

center — which will be called the Joint Data Exchange Center — only days

before President Clinton met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a

summit in Moscow on June 4.

The two countries plan to complete construction of the $7 million center

by June 2001. The new facility will be housed in a renovated schoolhouse

located north of Moscow and will be modeled on the Year 2000 Center for

Strategic Stability that military officials from the United States and Russia

established last year in Colorado Springs, Colo., to reduce the risk of

an accidental nuclear missile launch during the Year 2000 transition.

Air Force Master Sgt. Larry Lincoln, spokesman for the North American

Aerospace Defense Command, said the training, experience, time and money

that went into the Year 2000 effort laid the groundwork for the JDEC.

"The mission hasn't changed," he said. "We've done this once, so we'll

take the lessons learned and use that as a building block for a more permanent

effort to continue providing stability in uncertain times."

The two countries will assign about 16 military personnel to the center,

where they will monitor detailed information on the status of each other's

missile launches via desktop displays, according to a senior DOD official.

"We have Russian data coming in, going to a Russian display [and] U.S.

data coming into a U.S. display, and both sides can look at and correlate

it visually," the official said. The official, who spoke on background to

reporters at the Pentagon, added that although the information provided

by each country will be unclassified, it "will be processed in a way to

reveal a generic class of information," including launch time, launch point,

rough direction, impact point and impact time. Eventually, video monitors

will pipe data from the displays back to the national warning centers in

both countries, he said.

Once construction of the facility is complete, officials will begin

a three-phase plan for building a complete shared early warning system,

the Pentagon official said. The first two phases will focus solely on missiles

from the United States and Russia and the two countries' reporting procedures.

During Phase 3, however, which is expected to be reached within a few

months after the completion of Phase 1, both sides will focus on sharing

information on missile launches that may be conducted by rogue states, such

as North Korea and Iran.

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