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Congressional Discussion Addresses U.S. ICBMs

The U.S. arsenal of nuclear-armed ICBMs was the focus of a Wednesday discussion facilitated by Senators Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) (see GSN, Oct. 14, 2011).

The United States maintains 450 Minuteman 3 ICBMs managed by Air Force bases in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

That number is expected to drop to 420 missiles in coming years under the New START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. The Obama administration is also eyeing opportunities for further cuts in the nuclear stockpile.

Meanwhile, the Air Force's next “ground-based strategic deterrent” is to start replacing the existing Minuteman force by 2030 (see GSN, June 1).

"Today, we brought together experts from across the nuclear world to discuss the varied challenges our nation faces in securing our nuclear deterrent," Conrad, who co-leads the Senate ICBM Coalition with Enzi, said in a statement. ”This is a pivotal moment for America's nuclear posture. I am confident that today's meeting will lead to even more productive talks in the coming months to further improve the nuclear enterprise, which is fundamental to keeping Americans and our allies safe."

Among the event's participants were Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Brad Roberts; Maj. Gen. William Chambers, the Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration; Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, head of the Navy Strategic Systems Programs office; and Brig. Gen. Sandra Finan, a principal assistant deputy administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Speakers addressed alternatives for securing finances to maintain U.S. nuclear-weapon operations, armament control efforts and preparation of new technologies (U.S. Senator Kent Conrad release, July 11).

“I believe that our missiles must remain as the centerpiece of our defense strategy and I will stand in the way of any efforts to change that,” a press release quotes Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) as saying on Wednesday.  “We need to highlight their cost-effectiveness in a nuclear world.  A world where more countries are seeking nuclear capabilities” (U.S. Senator Jon Tester release, July 11).

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