Mis­sile cuts op­posed

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

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 ing@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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