The Pentagon appears to have acceded to the wishes of lawmakers in retaining large numbers of land-based missiles, says one nuclear expert.
In its Tuesday announcement on the implementation of nuclear delivery vehicle reductions under the New START accord with Russia, the Defense Department said it would keep its present arsenal of 454 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, though 54 of the weapons would be removed from their silos and placed in reserve. Those emptied underground launch facilities are to be kept in “warm” status, permitting their potential usage in the future.
The Pentagon’s decision follows a concerted lobbying push to limit cuts to the Minuteman arsenal by a coalition of lawmakers from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming — the three states that host the missile silos, the Associated Press reported.
“This decision appears to have more to do with the [Obama] administration surrendering to the ICBM caucus [in Congress] than with strategic considerations about national security,” wrote Federation of American Scientists nuclear forces analyst Hans Kristensen in an email to the news agency.
The New START pact requires the United States by 2018 to reduce the total number of deployed heavy bombers as well as strategic land- and sea-based ballistic missiles to 700 with an additional 100 systems allowed in reserve.
By not making any cuts to its roughly 450 ICBM silos, the Pentagon has decided to make much deeper cuts to its stockpile of submarine-launched ballistic missiles — going down to a total of 280 SLBMs from the present 336. While the sea-based fleet is more expensive to maintain than the other two legs of the nuclear triad, the submarines are also seen as the most strategically valuable because they would be harder to eliminate in a potential first-strike, according to AP.
Never before when the military has made cuts to its silo-based missiles have their launch facilities been maintained in standby status, said a high-ranking Pentagon official to journalists.
“The Obama administration’s decision to retain the 50 silos ‘reduced’ under the New START treaty instead of destroying them is a disappointing new development that threatens to weaken New START treaty implementation and the administration’s arms reduction profile,” wrote Kristensen in a Thursday blog post.
What We're Following See More »
Two powerful House members—Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL)—are throwing their support behind Donald Trump.
There are not "ongoing, direct conversations between" the Bernie Sanders camp and the Hillary Clinton camp regarding "the platform or rules changes," but Sanders "is already making his opening arguments" about those issues on the stump. Sanders is putting "complaints about closed primaries" atop his stump speeches lately, and figures to start a "conversation about the role of superdelegates in the nominating process." He said, “Our goal, whether we win or we do not win, is to transform the Democratic Party."
Well, this is unsubtle. Former Speaker John Boehner called Ted Cruz "lucifer in the flesh," adding that he "never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." Boehner has endorsed John Kasich, but he said he'd vote for Donald Trump over Cruz. He also praised Bernie Sanders, calling him the most honest politician in the race, and predicted that Joe Biden may yet have a role to play in the Democratic contest, especially if Hillary Clinton runs into legal trouble over her emails.