Missile cuts opposed
A group of 11 U.S. senators wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week to urge him not to cut the land-based intercontinental missile force below 450 missiles.
The letter was organized by Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, whose state includes 150 Minuteman nuclear missiles at Minot Air Force Base.
“We are proud that the ICBM force provides the United States with the most highly cost effective and operationally effective nuclear deterrent in the triad,” the senators stated in the Sept. 25 letter. “As we have indicated to the president, we would strongly oppose a reduction below the current force level of 450 missiles, divided into three wings of 150 missiles each.”
The lawmakers stated that they are concerned that nuclear cuts, either through a new arms agreement with Russia or the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, could weaken nuclear deterrence.
If U.S. nuclear warheads are cut below 1,100, “there is the potential to damage decades of arms control efforts for both a stabilizing triad and our ability to respond as world events change,” they stated.
“The 450 Minuteman ICBM force creates a widely dispersed single warhead target that adds significant stability in a crisis.”
The bipartisan letter was signed by Mr. Conrad and Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both of Montana, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.
Republicans who signed included Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Orrin G. Hatch and Robert F. Bennett, both of Utah, David Vitter of Louisiana and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.
Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at insidether firstname.lastname@example.org.