Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp today announced that the Pentagon has decided to preserve all of the nation's missile silos in the military's new strategic force structure under the New START Treaty with Russia.
The Pentagon had originally planned a study preparatory to demolishing some of the silos, even though such a move was not required under the treaty.
As members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven and Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., authored a provision in the Department of Defense appropriations bill that explicitly blocks the administration from undertaking any environmental analysis to reduce the number of active silos containing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, all of which are located at bases in the Upper Midwest.
Minot AFB has 150 Minuteman III ICBMs in underground facilities in several counties surrounding the base. The 91st Missile Wing at the Minot base is in charge of the Minot missile complex. It is one of three operational ICBM wings in Air Force Global Strike Command. The other missile wings are at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB, Mont.
The Hoeven-Tester legislation was strongly supported by the Senate Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Coalition, which in addition to Hoeven and Tester, includes Senators Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Walsh, D-Mont., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
Last month, however, the Defense Department tried to find a way around the Hoeven-Tester language and appeared to be pressuring the Air Force to hurry the study in about half the time usually necessary to complete such a review. To press the issue, Hoeven and Heitkamp asked the Air Force to outline a standard timeline for an environmental assessment, which would have made clear that time has run out.
Subsequently, several weeks ago, the Defense Department announced it would put the study on hold, citing uncertainty regarding the legality of continuing with the study, and today the Pentagon announced the new force structure, which retained all of the silos.
"I am pleased to see that the Pentagon agrees with Congress, which made clear in legislation that it wants a robust ICBM force," Hoeven said. "ICBMs represent the cheapest form of nuclear deterrence while presenting any potential adversary with an overwhelming deterrent threat. For these reasons, it is clear that we need to retain all of our ICBM silos."
"Today the Defense Department heeded my concerns, and those of the entire bipartisan ICBM Coalition, and will preserve North Dakota's missile silos," said Heitkamp. "We were able to push back against potential efforts to eliminate a crucial part of our military. But we can't be complacent and I will continue to work to protect our nation's ICBMs. These weapons, supported by the incredible servicemembers at Minot Air Force Base, offer the best deterrent to potential enemies who may wish the United States and our allies harm."