The Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) was established by the Treaty on Open Skies, which was signed in Helsinki, on March 24,1992. To date 27 states, including the United States, have signed the Treaty. It will enter into force 60 days after the deposit of a specific quorum of 20 instruments of ratification. Some elements are already in provisional application and the OSCC, the Treaty's implementing body, already meets in Vienna.
Art.X of the Treaty on Open Skies established the OSCC to promote the objectives and facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the Treaty; procedures are spelled out in Annex L of the Treaty. Accordingly, the OSCC may:
- seek to resolve ambiguities and differences of interpretation emerging during Treaty implementation;
- consider and decide on applications for accession to the Treaty; and
- agree on technical/administrative measures necessary following accession by other states;
- review the distribution of active quotas annually.
Moreover, the OSCC may propose amendments to the Treaty and each state party has the right to raise and place on the OSCC agenda any issue relating to the Treaty.
Finally, the OSCC may consider requests from bodies of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) authorized to deal with conflict prevention and crisis management regarding the conduct of extraordinary observation flights.
The OSCC consists of representatives from all 27 States Parties namely, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and the United States. The OSCC chairmanship rotates among the member states for every session.
OSCC Operations During the Period of Provisional Application:
The OSCC was established soon after the Treaty was signed and convened in Vienna, Austria, in April 1992. Thus, the OSCC became operational prior to entry into force of the Treaty. Additionally, other parts, primarily implementing and preparatory ones, of the Treaty have been provisionally applied since signature. The initial period of provisional application of 12 months (March 1992 - April 1993) has been extended twice by the OSCC for six months. The current period of provisional application could again be extended in April 1994. After entry into force, the Treaty will be implemented in phases until all provisions are fully implemented beginning December 31 of the third year following the year of entry into force.
The OSCC makes decisions by consensus (i.e. absence of objection by any State Party). It meets at least four times annually. The first session of the OSCC, chaired by Canada, was held in Vienna, April 2-June 29,1992; the second session, chaired by Denmark, was held September 24-December 17, 1992; the third session, chaired by Spain, was held January 18-July 16,1993; and the fourth session was held September 13-December 6, 1993, under French chairmanship. The fifth session, chaired by the UK, commenced on January 17, 1994.
Currently, the OSCC does much of its technical work in informal working groups, each chaired by a different state. At its inaugural meeting, the OSCC established five such working groups on the following subjects: Costs, Sensors, Formats and Notifications/Information Exchange, Rules of Procedure and Working Methods, and Clarifications of Treaty Provisions. The first four groups met on a semi-annual basis, while the fifth group merely conducted informal consultations; the cost and clarifications groups discontinued meeting in 1993. At its fourth session, the OSCC reduced the number of working groups to four: Sensors, Notifications and Data Base, Flight Rules/Procedures, and Rules of Procedure/Working Methods.
Record of Achievement
Since its creation in 1992, the OSCC has adopted the following technical, procedural and cost decisions, all of which will enter into force simultaneously with the Treaty and having the same duration as the Treaty.
- Additional Non-Destructive-Testing Equipment (Decision # 11), adopted on June 29, 1992, gives the observed party the right to use a volt-ohm meter to check for non-authorized sensors during preflight inspections of observation aircraft.
- Methodology for Calculating the Minimum Height Above Ground Level at Which Each Optical Camera Installed on an Observation Aircraft may be Operated during an Observation Flight (Decision # III), adopted on June 29, 1992, provides for the methodology to use optical cameras, one of the four sensor categories of the Treaty.
- Minimum Camera Specification for an Observation Aircraft of an Observed Party Exercising its Right to Provide an Observation Aircraft for an Observation Flight (Decision # IV). Adopted on June 29,1992, and based on the OSCC Chairman's Statement, this decision ensures that an aircraft designated by the observed rather than by the observing state for a flight over its territory ("taxi") will produce imagery from optical cameras comparable to that which the observing party would expect to acquire with its own aircraft. It also specifies minimum altitudes and fields of view to ensure that optical cameras produce Treaty-required resolution with adequate area coverage.
- Responsibility for the Processing of Film used during an Observation Flight (Decision # V), adopted on June 29,1992, gives the observing party the right to determine whether it, or the party providing the "taxi", shall process the film exposed during an observation flight. It also establishes that the observing party shall assume responsibility if the quality of the processed film is inadequate and the States Parties are unable to resolve the cause.
- Rules of Procedure and Working Methods of the OSCC (Decision # VI), adopted on July 16,1993, deals with administrative procedures such as chairmanship, meetings, work program, agenda, journal, secretariat, and rules for observer states.
- Methodology for Determining the Ground Resolution of Synthetic Aperture Radar/SAR (Decision # VII), adopted on December 10, 1992, determines the methodology for measuring the resolution of SAR, the second of the four Treaty sensor types.
- Codes other than Alphanumeric Values to be used for Annotation of Data (Decision # VIII) was adopted on July 16, 1993, and provides for alternative codes for annotation of data resulting from observation flights.
- Intervals at which Data shall be Annotated with Information (Decision # IX), adopted on July 16, 1993, specifies the timing for data annotation regarding the four sensor categories (optical and video cameras, infrared sensors, SAR).
- Scale of Distribution for the Common Expenses Associated with the Operation of the OSCC (Decision # X), adopted on July 16,1993, was based on the scale of distribution adopted by the CSCE members in Helsinki on July 10, 1992. Accordingly, the major contributors are France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. (all responsible for 10.82 percent each), followed by Russia (9.05 percent), Canada (6.55 percent) and Spain (5.10 percent); contributions by other members range from 4.27 to 0.21 percent each.
- Financial and Administrative Questions Relating to Point VI of Decision # I of 29 June 1992 (Decision # XI) was adopted on July 16, 1993, and resolves an issue in point VI, paras 2 and 3 of Decision # L which the Parties had been unable to resolve at the time the decision was passed. It specifies the modalities for payment of financial contributions and for the administrative organization of the OSCC.
- Information to be Provided Together with Calibration Target Diagrams (Decision # XII) was adopted on December 12,1993, and requires all States Parties to provide information in the form of annotated diagrams of targets used to confirm the performance of Open Skies sensors.
Additional OSCC Decisions Required by the Treaty During the Period of Provisional Application:
The OSCC is currently meeting to resolve other technical issues to ensure the smooth conduct of Open Skies flights. These include:
- Methodologies for Video and Infrared Sensors.
- Data Recording and Exchange Format for other Recording Media.
The Treaty on Open Skies establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its signatories. It is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, the possibility to obtain information on military or other activities of concern to them; most smaller states will get copies of data, and are unlikely to conduct their own flights. Currently covering territory from Vancouver east to Vladivostok, Open Skies is the most wide-ranging international effort to date to promote openness and transparency of military forces/activities. The Treaty on Open Skies is based upon four basic principles: complete territorial openness/access, use of unarmed aircraft for observation flights, an advanced sensor suite with sensors commercially available to all Parties, and annual quotas for reciprocal overflights. The Treaty allows for consensus decisions in the OSCC to upgrade sensors, adjust quotas, and admit new participants in order to enhance the Treaty's effectiveness.