Defense budget includes ICBM funding

Great Falls Tribune

by Jenn Rowell

The defense budget for the next fiscal year includes investments to modernize and sustain the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile force through 2030.

Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus said they specifically called for that in a letter they, along with other senators, sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel earlier this month.

In the letter, they said the escalating threats from North Korea highlighted the need for the land-based leg of the nuclear triad.

Malmstrom Air Force Base operates and maintains 150 ICBMs throughout its missile field, which is the largest of the three missile fields. The other two are F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Minot AFB in North Dakota.

The Montana senators said Tuesday that Malmstrom’s ICBM mission accounts for more than 40 percent of the economy in northcentral Montana and contributes to about 5,000 jobs.

Tester and Baucus, with five other senators, wrote in their early April letter that they understand further reductions to the nuclear arsenal may be necessary to comply with START treaties, but asked that the Department of Defense maintain “at least 420 ICBMs on alert, and preseve all 450 existing ICBM silos in warm operational status. We further urge that any reductions be spread equally between each of the three operational ICBM bases. Such dispersal provides the maximum effective deterrent with the remaining missiles and maintaining all 450 silos in a warm status creates intelligence and targeting problems for our adversaries while allowing us to realize maintenance efficiencies within the remaining ICBM force.”

During a recent budget hearing, Baucus said, “The budget makes important investments in keeping America safe by sustaining the current ICBM force through 2030. North Korea’s recent actions have sent a clear wake-up call to the White House. A strong ICBM force is the best deterrence strategy to keep America safe, and it also gives us the most deterrence for our money.”