Bill could slash ICBM arsenals

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Bill could slash ICBM arsenals

Postby Atlas D MMT on Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:07 pm

Bill could slash ICBM arsenals
Wyoming. senators seek to maintain the country's land-based nuclear weapon stockpiles.
By Trevor Brown
CHEYENNE -- Wyoming's congressional delegation is trying to block the White House from having the ability to reduce the country's land-based nuclear weapons beyond agreed upon limits.
Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso recently introduced a pair of amendments that seek to limit cuts to the intercontinental ballistic missiles that are maintained by F.E. Warren Air Force Base and two other bases in Montana and North Dakota.
One of the amendments proposed by the two Wyoming Republicans and a group of other senators would prohibit the U.S. Department of Defense from reducing its nuclear forces below the limits specified in a 2011 deal with Russia unless the additional cuts are authorized by Congress through the treaty-making process.
The other proposal would prevent the DOD from demolishing any of the country’s 450 active intercontinental ballistic missile silos. Both amendments were made to the National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate has been debating this week and is expected to continue taking up today.
Enzi said the provisions would prevent President Barack Obama from unilaterally moving forward with any plans to eliminate silos or ICBMs without congressional approval.
“The administration’s views on our nuclear deterrent should come as no surprise to anyone,” Enzi said in a statement. “We’ve seen President Obama promise to do all that he can to reduce our nuclear arsenal n step by step. “He rammed the New START Treaty through the Senate by promising commitments that he ultimately did not keep.”
The New START n or the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty n requires the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals to certain levels by 2017 One of the provisions would limit the United States’ deployed ICBM force to 420 n a 30-missile reduction from the current arsenal. F.E. Warren, Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base and North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base each operate 150 Minuteman III nuclear missiles.
Lawmakers have previously suggested that this cut can be applied by reducing 10 missiles from each base. This would prevent a full squadron, which maintains 50 missiles, from being eliminated. But U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military leaders have suggested they could make further cuts to the ICBM forces as a strategic or cost-savings move.
Additionally, Obama included a request in his 2014 budget proposal to authorize an environmental impact study that could be a precursor to the possible elimination of ICBM silos. The group of senators opposed this move because they argued the U.S. can maintain its 450 silos under the New START, since they can be put on “warm” or reserve status.
“Just as it does not make sense to reduce our deployed nuclear force below the treaty level … it does not make any sense to reduce our total launcher capacity beyond what is legally required,” wrote members of the Senate ICBM Coalition, which includes Enzi and Barrasso, in a Sept. 15 letter to Hagel. “We strongly believe that considering any reductions below the treaty level, with regard to either deployed weapons or to total launchers, is a mistake.”
Daniel Head, a spokesman for Enzi, said the impact study would be rendered “meaningless” if the amendment requiring the silos to stay operational passes. U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., successfully introduced similar language in the House of Representatives’ version of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed earlier in the year.
But it remains unclear if the amendments will even be voted on in the Senate. The Senate is expected to continue debating the bill today, which is the last day before members go home for their Thanksgiving recess. Head said it is unknown whether Senate Majority Leader Henry Reid, D-Nev., will allow a floor vote on the amendments.
Barrasso said getting the measures passed is crucial not only to Wyoming, but also the country. “America’s nuclear deterrent helps keep Americans safe and our country free,” he said in statement. “As countries that are not our friends grow closer to modernizing their nuclear weapons programs, it would be irresponsible for us to weaken our own program.”
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Atlas D MMT
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