NRRC Watch Center
To service its various communications links, the NRRC watch center is staffed for three 8-hour shifts per day. Watch officers are trained to operate the center's various data automation systems, assisted by technical communications specialists who are responsible for actual operation of the GGCL terminal equipment. The NRRC is Treaty required to have a Russian language qualified watch officer always on duty. The majority of foreign language notifications are received in Russian, and they are often time-sensitive.
Watch officers are guided in processing notifications, both incoming and outgoing, by formal written "standard operating procedures" or SOPs. SOP manuals are constantly updated by the NRRC's support staff in consultation with other U.S. agencies, and reflect both changes in U.S. requirements as well as changes in internationally agreed practices. Watch officers are assisted in their duties by automated computer translation, database, and custom processing software, much of it locally developed by the NRRC support staff.
Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia was the legal successor state for a number of bilateral agreements, including the 1987 NRRC Agreement. Therefore, responsibility for the original U.S.S.R. NRRC communications link was assumed by the Russian Federation NRRC. The U.S. and the four former Soviet Union republics which "inherited" nuclear capability -- Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan -- signed the Lisbon Protocol in May 1992, agreeing to fulfill the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) obligations. Additional GGCLs were set up with the other three states in 1994-1995
In 1991, the U.S. NRRC's role was significantly expanded when it was tasked by the NSC to operate the U.S. node of the communications network of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (then known as the CSCE, or Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe). Composed of 56 participating countries, the OSCE is a multilateral international organization dedicated to reducing tensions and fostering confidence building in Europe (and includes participation by the United States, Russia, Canada, and the central Asian and Caucasus states of the former Soviet Union). Most of the OSCE signatories are linked to the OSCE communications network. Notifications are exchanged over the OSCE network under the terms of three multilateral treaties/agreements: the Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBM) of the Vienna Document 1999, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty (CFE), and the Open Skies treaty (OS).
Upon entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997, the NRRC established a communications link for notification exchange between the U.S. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) located in The Hague. In 2010, the NRRC begin transmitting notifications to the Immediate Central Contact (ICC), located in Vienna, for the implementation of the Hague Code of Conduct Against of Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC) via .e-mail.
The task of translating treaty notifications is facilitated by the fact that all notifications are highly "formatted." Any information required by a treaty to be communicated, there is a corresponding format with agreed, standardized language and structure. This process ensures the required information is presented in an easily understood layout. This formatted process, which does not have to be created anew every time a message is drafted, guides the drafter in preparing concise and treaty-compliant notifications. It also aids in the translation of received notifications, even permitting, in some cases, automated translation by computer.
The NRRC receives drafts of outgoing notifications (usually electronically) from various U.S. agencies. Watch officers proofread the documents, ensuring the proper format is used and the notification complies with treaty provisions and other technical/operational requirements. These notifications are further reviewed by staff prior to transmission. Following this clearance process, the NRRC transmits its notifications to its foreign partners within the transmission time window specified by the drafting agency and/or treaty. U.S. notifications are always transmitted in English; the receiving parties are responsible for the translation.
Notifications received by the NRRC from its foreign partners are often in a foreign language. NRRC watch officers translate the notifications into English before disseminating them to appropriate U.S. agencies in the arms control community via the State Department's message system, as well as via interagency wide area information networks. Because of the large volume of incoming notifications processed by the NRRC, watch officers prioritize processing of incoming messages according to time and operational sensitivity.
Some incoming messages are time-sensitive and require immediate telephonic notification (before an electronic version has been prepared and distributed) by the watch officers to various U.S. military and intelligence agencies. When required, such communications are conducted over secure telephone lines.