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NEWS | May 15, 2019

International Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty tested at JB Charleston

By Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston Air Base hosted a week-long Chemical Weapons Convention exercise Jan. 7-11, 2019. The purpose of the exercise was to test the response of Air Force Major Command Base Assistance Teams here should the U.S. receive an international challenge inspection under the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty. A similar exercise was conducted May 16, 2019, at Naval Weapons Station Charleston, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

“This annual training tests our ability to respond to a challenge inspection under the treaty. During the exercise and in real world, the Air Force would be the lead,” said Kimbrell. “The Army and Navy would only assist if the Naval Weapons Station were included in the final inspection perimeter.”

Participants from the U.S. Department of Energy, Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Air Force headquarters and other government agencies participated in the exercise to provide installation personnel information to begin the process of preparing for a CWC challenge inspection. Additionally, foreign observers to the local exercise included a former training team leader of the former Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Inspection team, the U.K. Ministry of Defense, a Chemical Arms Control Senior Policy Adviser and the CWC Implementation Manager for the U.K. National Authority.

“JB Charleston is offering a platform for us to train our deployable Base Assistance Team,” said Todd Miller, an exercise control officer from Science Applications International Corporation. “We are just looking for knowledgeable folks on the base who, if a Chemical Weapons Convention challenge inspection were to occur, would know the operations on the base and guide our 30-plus folks from the Air Force that are mainly made up of treaty compliance officers, contractors and personnel from headquarters. We would deploy to the site and integrate with the base personnel and help them get through the treaty timeline.”

Miller’s role as the exercise control officer is key to ensuring the scenarios and injects proceed as they should.

“I make sure the exercise goes as planned and step in if there are any issues,” said Miller. “My team designs the scenarios and we are in charge of training the Air Force base assistance team chief and team.” 

The Chemical Weapons Convention aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons within their jurisdiction.

“Since the U.S. in its entirety is subject to a challenge inspection, or would be, our exercise is comprised of many different organizations with the thought of strengthening the relationships with other organizations and being able to capitalize on one another’s shared experiences,” said Ken King, the chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction section for Headquarters Air Force Air National Treaties Branch. “Department of Energy, Joint Staff, Navy, Army, all MAJCOMS—this gives them all an opportunity to access their procedures and to see how we do it on the Air Force side.”

A unique feature of the Convention is its incorporation of the ‘challenge inspection,’ whereby any State Party in doubt about another State Party’s compliance can request a surprise inspection. Under the Convention’s ‘challenge inspection’ procedure, States Parties have committed themselves to the principle of “anytime, anywhere” inspections with no right of refusal. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s population lives under the protection of the convention, which went into effect April 29, 1997. 

“The treaty does not specify whether it would happen on a military base or on commercial site or personal land,” said Miller. “No agency is immune to this happening to them. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have established regulations that each military service will have a readiness plan if an inspection were to occur. The treaty compliance officer from AMC volunteered JB Charleston to host.” 

The team was grateful for the facilitation JBC personnel offered them, which allowed them to efficiently complete the exercise.

“The participation and involvement we received from the base has exceeded our expectations,” said King. “It says a lot about the base and about the people who are willing to help us sharpen our skills and increase our proficiency in readiness. Because what we do is not only for the Air Force, but to meet the United States’ obligations with regards to treaty implementation and compliance.”