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Diplomacy in Action

History of the NRRC


The opening ceremony of the new consolidated NRRC Watch Center in 1995. [State Dept. photo]
The opening ceremony of the new consolidated NRRC Watch Center in 1995.

The U.S. concept of Nuclear Risk Reduction came from a Congressional working group sponsored by Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Sam Nunn (D-GA) in the mid-eighties. During the height of the Cold War they looked at the creation of NRRCs as a way to lessen U.S.-Soviet tensions. President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev first discussed this concept of Nuclear Risk Reduction during their November 1985 Geneva Summit. The Nunn-Warner Working Group proposal was further refined during meetings held in late 1985 and 1986 between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. The U.S. NRRC and its Soviet counterpart were formally recognized in a NRRC Agreement signed in Washington, DC by Secretary of State George Shultz and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on September 15, 1987. The two centers were the first direct communications link established between the capitals since the Presidential "Hotline" was instituted in 1963. The NRRC Agreement called for the exchange of ballistic missile launch and Goodwill notifications, as well as those for future agreements. Less than three months later, in December 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed by President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev. Subsequently, the NRRC was tasked to exchange INF messages related to inspections, eliminations and conversion activities, and a comprehensive database.

The National Security Decision Directive Number 301 (NSDD-301)

On February 22, 1988, National Security Decision Directive number 301 (NSDD-301) officially established the U.S. NRRC within the DOS. NSDD-301 lays the groundwork for the activities of the NRRC, including Presidential approval of future notifications regimes, the use of pre-formatted notifications and the type of communications equipment to be used. An Assistant Secretary of State is appointed within the NSDD-301 Presidential guidance to serve as the Director of the U.S. NRRC. The first operational notifications were exchanged in April 1988 and consisted of ballistic missile launch information. The proper location for the new NRRC was debated for months, but it was finally decided that the NRRC's role in government-to-government communication was the duty of the State Department.


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