Pentagon Seen Acquiescing to Congress on Land-Based Nuclear Missiles

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 9, 2014, 7:50 a.m.

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.

Mean­while, law­makers from North Dakota, Wyom­ing and Montana praised the Pentagon’s de­cision in a flurry of press re­leases.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
3 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.