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Treaty compliance office ensures inspection readiness

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Graphic to accompany feature stories without imagery to support the 90th Missile Wing, created Oct. 14, 2021. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Glenn S. Robertson)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

“We exchange data with Russia twice per year,” said Rex Ellis, 90th Missile Wing Chief of the Treaty Compliance office, here.

Ellis spent four years in the Navy and 20 years in the Air Force before retiring from active duty and taking his current position in the Treaty Compliance Office, where he has worked for more than 26 years.

Ellis is the head of the Treaty Compliance Office, where he works to ensure F.E Warren Air Force Base follows the guidelines of two treaties: the New Start Treaty and the Chemical Weapons convention. The NST is a treaty between Russia and the United States, and its purpose is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that each country possesses.

The NST is also the more significant of the two treaties here at F.E Warren, according to Ellis. A Russian team of up to 10 can come into the United States to inspect 17 different bases’ compliance under the NST.

“The purpose of the treaty is to prove when they come to this base, the data that we have exchanged with them is what we say it is,” said Ellis.

The U.S. and Russia must inspect each other 18 times during the treaty year. These inspections are random and can occur at a moment’s notice, so Ellis must make sure F.E. Warren is always ready and compliant.

“They have to cram all 18 inspections into 12 months,” said Ellis. “So it puts them coming into the country a lot.”

The Russian team will not declare what base they are visiting until after they are already in the U.S. Ellis must prepare his team and base personnel participating in the visit each time the Russian team comes into the country, in case this base is selected for inspection.

Ellis is one of two members in the Treaty Compliance Office, so he needs volunteers to help escort the Russian team when they arrive on F.E Warren for an inspection.

“One of the things that has to happen for an inspection to be successfully conducted is that I need base personnel to be trained as escorts to help me,” said Ellis. “I only have one co-worker and the two of us can’t do it alone.”

Ellis looks for six or seven volunteer escorts each time a Russian team arrives in country. People from base who volunteer must go through a two-hour training course that will prepare them to escort the Russian team.

Currently inspections are on pause due to COVID-19. It will be more than two years since Ellis and F.E Warren have experienced an inspection by the time the next one takes place. However, Ellis still works every day to ensure the base stays compliant and is ready for an inspection as soon as they resume.  

“In the world of international treaties, it’s very important that we be 100% treaty compliant, which we are because I make sure we are,” said Ellis.