A House bill's mandate that all nuclear missile silos be kept operational indefinitely has drawn opposition from some Democrats, Politico Pro reports.
The Republican-led House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces in its Wednesday mark-up and approval of annual defense policy legislation included a requirement that the Defense Department maintain each of the silos currently housing a Minuteman 3 missile at least in "warm" status regardless of whether the weapon at a later date is removed from the underground launch chamber.
In accordance with the implementation of the New START pact with Russia, the Pentagon last month announced that between now and 2018 it would withdraw and place in reserve 54 of the intercontinental ballistic missiles but would keep their silos ready for potential future usage. The House bill provision appears to go further than the Pentagon's stated plan, though, by requiring that all of the approximately 450 silos be kept operational indefinitely.
"A congressional provision to indefinitely prevent the reduction of missile silos undermines our military's ability to determine optimal force structure and adapt to our security needs," U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) was quoted by Politico Pro as saying. "It is only sensible that as we reduce the number of our nuclear weapons, we maintain the ability to appropriately size our nuclear force structure."
Michael Amato, a spokesman for U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), said his boss thinks the missile silo requirement would place "an unnecessary and significant financial and strategic burden" on the U.S. military.
Smith is the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Sanchez sits on the panel's Strategic Forces Subcommittee
Lawmakers from the three states that host the Minuteman 3 arsenal -- Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming -- have moved repeatedly to block any effort to reduce the Minuteman 3 arsenal.