Senate Bill Mandates Study of Nuclear-Arms Storage Sites

A B-61 bomb is doused in water during a 2009 Mass Accident Response Exercise at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. A draft Senate defense appropriations bill would require the Air Force to submit a plan for modernizing its nuclear-weapon storage areas.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
July 21, 2014, 10:36 a.m.

Sen­ate ap­pro­pri­at­ors last week ap­proved a bill that would re­quire the Pentagon to study how to mod­ern­ize fa­cil­it­ies stor­ing U.S. nuc­le­ar war­heads.

Lan­guage in­ser­ted by Sen­at­or Mary Landrieu (D-La.) dur­ing a com­mit­tee mark-up of the fisc­al 2015 de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations le­gis­la­tion would give the Air Force three months to de­vel­op a com­pre­hens­ive plan for up­dat­ing its five war­head stor­age sites, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the law­maker’s of­fice.

The five Air Force sites presently au­thor­ized to house nuc­le­ar arms are Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.; F.E. War­ren Air Force Base, Wyo.; White­man Air Force Base, Mo.; and Kirt­land Air Force Base, N.M., ac­cord­ing to Hans Kristensen, dir­ect­or of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ic­an Sci­ent­ists’ Nuc­le­ar In­form­a­tion Pro­ject.

Landrieu is par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on see­ing the Barks­dale Air Force Base’s con­ven­tion­al-mu­ni­tions stor­age area up­graded to handle nuc­le­ar arms, as it once did in the past. Presently, B-52 bombers based at Barks­dale, headquar­ters of Air Force Glob­al Strike Com­mand, must fly to oth­er bases to be loaded with atom­ic weapons.

Barks­dale is second-in-line on the Air Force’s list of weapon stor­age areas slated to re­ceive an up­grade, ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease. Landrieu’s amend­ment would re­quire the Air Force to ex­plain its ra­tionale for pri­or­it­iz­ing which stor­age sites get up­grades.

“I’m proud to lead the ef­forts of our del­eg­a­tion to en­sure that the Glob­al Strike Com­mand and Barks­dale Air Force Base re­ceive the at­ten­tion they de­serve. Mod­ern­iz­ing the nuc­le­ar weapons stor­age area at Barks­dale will give our mil­it­ary the broad and deep reach it needs to pro­tect our na­tion and provide sta­bil­ity for our al­lies across the world,” Landrieu said in re­leased com­ments.

The de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations bill now awaits con­sid­er­a­tion by the full Sen­ate.

The Louisi­ana law­maker’s of­fice told the Shreve­port Times it would cost ap­prox­im­ately $300 mil­lion and take sev­er­al years to re­store Barks­dale’s nuc­le­ar weapons-hold­ing cap­ab­il­ity.

Landrieu also voiced sup­port for see­ing the head of Glob­al Strike Com­mand el­ev­ated to a four-star po­s­i­tion, as is planned by the Air Force.

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