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House Lawmakers Push to Keep Ballistic Missile Silos Viable

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

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. 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. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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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