What is the cost of retaining missile silos and are there savings in eliminating them?
The Secretary of Defense and the Defense Department comptroller recently acknowledged that they want the Air Force to study the possibility of eliminating ICBM silos and requested funding in the fiscal year 2014 budget for that purpose, according to information issued by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., last week.
Hoeven told Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, that he strongly opposes any Defense Department effort to reduce the number of nuclear missile silos. He said the nation's missile silos are a long-term defense asset that should not be eliminated.
Under the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the 450 ICBMs would be reduced to about 412 ICBMs, emptying a number of missile silos that Hoeven is urging the department to retain.
"Eliminating silos would save the Air Force very little money because as long as there is a single silo, the Air Force will need specialized equipment and personnel to maintain it," said Josh Carter, who works for Hoeven on military affairs.
"In fact, the Air Force may be able to save money by keeping silos operational even after the missiles are removed," Carter said. "The Air Force can rotate missiles through surplus silos, keeping the entire ICBM force operational while simultaneously performing maintenance in empty silos. This would be more efficient than taking missiles offline when silo maintenance is required."
Minot Air Force Base's 91st Missile Wing has 150 Minuteman III ICBMs in underground silos in the Minot missile field. The wing is one of three operational ICBM wings in Air Force Global Strike Command.