House Lawmakers Push to Keep Ballistic Missile Silos Viable

U.S. Air Force missile maintenance technicians attach a handling fixture to the reentry system of a Minuteman 3 missile inside a launch silo, during a June 2002 nuclear surety inspection at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Three House lawmakers are calling for Congress to use spending legislation again to deny the Pentagon any funds to begin decommissioning missile silos.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
April 3, 2014, 7:33 a.m.

A  trio of House law­makers is ur­ging against provid­ing any funds in the next fisc­al year for the de­com­mis­sion­ing of U.S. in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile silos.

U.S. Rep­res­ent­at­ives Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cyn­thia Lum­mis (R-Wyo.) and Kev­in Cramer (R-N.D.) on Wed­nes­day wrote to the seni­or Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic mem­bers of the House De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee ur­ging them to in­clude new lan­guage in up­com­ing fisc­al 2015 spend­ing le­gis­la­tion. The pro­posed pro­vi­sion would bar the Pentagon from us­ing any budgeted funds to “re­duce, con­vert, de­com­mis­sion, or oth­er­wise move to nondeployed status” any act­ive ICBM silos.

The Re­pub­lic­an law­makers hail from the three states that host the na­tion’s ar­sen­al of roughly 450 Minute­man 3 mis­siles.

The New START ac­cord with Rus­sia re­quires the United States by 2018 to re­duce to 700 the total num­ber of stra­tegic mis­siles and bomber air­craft that are act­ively de­ployed, with an ad­di­tion­al 100 sys­tems per­mit­ted in re­serve. However, the mat­ter of be­gin­ning the work re­quired to moth­ball some of the Minute­man silos is a polit­ic­al hot potato in Con­gress.

A bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion of law­makers worked to­geth­er last year to in­sert lan­guage in the om­ni­bus fisc­al 2014 spend­ing law that for­bids the Pentagon from us­ing any ap­pro­pri­ated funds to carry out en­vir­on­ment­al stud­ies on silo de­com­mis­sion­ing. The Air Force last month put on hold a nas­cent ef­fort to con­duct a pre­lim­in­ary en­vir­on­ment­al as­sess­ment on silo shut-downs, after a num­ber of law­makers ac­cused the Pentagon of vi­ol­at­ing the spend­ing law.

Daines, Lum­mis and Cramer in their Wed­nes­day let­ter urged against provid­ing any fund­ing to the Pentagon that “may be used to pre­pare for or con­duct an en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact study, en­vir­on­ment­al as­sess­ment, or oth­er en­vir­on­ment­al study.”

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