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.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."