AS the Soviet threat fades and budget cuts bite deep, the armed
forces of the United States appear to be facing a reduced role in
the future. But in today's new world order there is at least one
Pentagon activity still planning for major growth: arms-control
The three-year-old On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA) is the US
military's "point man" for enforcing arms treaties. Founded in
response to the Reagan-era intermediate-range nuclear weapons (INF)
pact, OSIA's workload will expand soon, when the new strategic
nuclear (START) treaty and Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE)
limits take effect.
At OSIA's suburban Washington headquarters there's a palpable
sense of being on the cutting edge of superpower security
relations. "It's an exciting process," says Navy Capt. John
Williams, chief of the OSIA inspection division.
Ten years ago the idea of a Pentagon agency devoted to on-site
inspection of arms agreements seemed improbable at best. A
suspicious, closed Soviet government resisted disclosing
information of any sort to outsiders. Spy satellites were the only
means of verifying adherence to treaty provisions.
Sudden Soviet change
Mikhail Gorbachev and the INF treaty changed all that. The
suddenness with which the Soviets embraced openness can be seen in
the fact that much US equipment for on-site inspectors had to be
developed on a crash basis as implementation of the
intermediate-range pact became imminent in the late 1980s.
Since July 1988, OSIA teams have conducted more than 400 INF
inspections on Soviet or former Warsaw Pact territory, watching,
among other things, the dumping of almost 1,500 missiles into the
Baltic after they had been crushed or otherwise destroyed. The OSIA
teams have acted as hosts for some 200 Soviet inspections in the US.
Under the terms of the INF pact, US inspectors have kept up a
permanent watch outside a Soviet missile assembly factory at
Votkinsk, 600 miles east of Moscow. The Soviets maintain similar
"portal monitoring" near a plant in Magna, Utah.
OSIA's interaction with the Soviet military has by now become
routine. During the uncertain times of the coup attempt in Moscow
and its aftermath, "all scheduled arms control activities
happened," says Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Parker, OSIA director.
That included a rotation of the Soviet inspection team in Utah.
The disintegration of Soviet central authority and the secession
of the Baltics could well have some effect on arms control
inspections. But it isn't yet clear what that will be, insist a
number of US officials. The Soviet military, for its part, says it
has every intention of proceeding to implement the START and CFE