Land-Based Nuclear Missiles Escape Drastic Cut Under Pentagon Plan

A U.S. Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off in a December test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Pentagon on Tuesday proposed eliminating 50 weapons from the nation's deployed ICBM fleet to help implement an arms control treaty with Russia.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
April 8, 2014, 10:55 a.m.

Land-based nuc­le­ar mis­siles came away re­l­at­ively un­scathed un­der a new U.S. De­fense De­part­ment arms-re­duc­tion pro­pos­al, amid law­maker fears of deep­er cuts.

The Pentagon on Tues­day pro­posed cut­ting the ar­sen­al of de­ployed in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles from 450 down to 400. But the United States would main­tain 54 of the Minute­man 3 weapons out­side of their un­der­ground silos and keep those launch fa­cil­it­ies in “warm” status.

The re­duc­tion in de­ployed ground-based mis­siles con­sti­tutes a one-ninth re­duc­tion in that ar­sen­al, fielded at Air Force bases in Montana, North Dakota and Wyom­ing.

The pro­pos­al was part of an an­ti­cip­ated an­nounce­ment of plans to com­ply with the New START arms con­trol treaty, which now leaves the United States and Rus­sia with less than four years to cap their re­spect­ive nuc­le­ar-arms de­ploy­ments at a com­bined total of 700 de­ployed launch plat­forms, and 100 ad­di­tion­al in re­serve.

“By Feb. 5, 2018, the total de­ployed and non-de­ployed force will con­sist of 454 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile (ICBM) launch­ers, 280 sub­mar­ine-launched bal­list­ic mis­sile (SLBM) launch­ers, and 66 heavy bombers,” the De­fense De­part­ment said in a state­ment. “U.S. de­ployed forces will con­sist of 400 de­ployed ICBMs.”

The De­fense De­part­ment ad­ded that 240 sub­mar­ine-launched bal­list­ic mis­siles and 60 nuc­le­ar-cap­able bombers would re­mained fielded, “for a total of 700 de­ployed stra­tegic de­liv­ery vehicles, the treaty lim­it.”

Spe­cif­ics on the planned force re­duc­tions be­came pub­lic after some mem­bers of Con­gress had aired wor­ries that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ten­ded to elim­in­ate a full ICBM squad­ron, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters.

Dis­trib­ut­ing the cuts across ICBM bases in three states would pre­clude the need for such a move, one gov­ern­ment in­sider told the wire ser­vice, which re­por­ted the dis­tri­bu­tion of planned cuts pre­vi­ously along with the Wall Street Journ­al.

Cor­rec­tion: This art­icle was up­dated after pub­lic­a­tion to cor­rect the date on which the Pentagon an­nounce­ment was made.
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