Baucus and Tester say budget would fund all 450 land-based ICBMs, including 150 at Malmstrom

Great Falls Tribune

by Peter Johnson

Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced Monday that the proposed defense budget released by the Obama administration maintains full operations funding for all 450 ICBMs, including the 150 housed at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Malmstrom, F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming, and Minot AFB in North Dakota each have 150 of the silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Montana Democrats said they repeatedly contacted top officials at the White House and Defense Department over the last three years to make the case for maintaining a strong ICBM force despite necessary budget cuts.

“We know that maintaining a strong ICBM force is a necessary contribution to our national security and a wise investment in Great Falls jobs,” Baucus said in a joint news release. “So, we made our case over and over again, up and down the chain of command, and it paid off in today’s budget. Now, we’ve got to keep fighting to make sure the Air Force’s funding request is approved by Congress without delay.”

“Malmstrom’s ICBMs strengthen our national security in a cost-effective manner,” Tester said. “The base is a critically important part of Great Falls’ economy and I am proud to fight for it. We worked hard to make sure this administration understands the national security importance of Malmstrom and listened to our calls to keep its mission strong.”

Baucus and Tester have said they voted to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in December 2010 only after receiving assurances from the Defense Department that the Air Force will continue to deploy 400 to 420 ICBMs at the three missile wing bases after START is implemented. But, the United States and Russia have seven years in which to carry out the reductions required in the treaty, a Baucus aide said Monday. If approved by Congress, the Defense Department budget that Baucus and Tester sought would assure adequate funding for the three missile bases to operate all 450 missiles in the meantime.