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Air Force, Allies Preparing for Budget Battle Over Replacing Cold War-Era Missiles

Air Force, Allies Preparing for Budget Battle Over Replacing Cold War-Era Missiles
(Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 11 February 2021 04:34 PM

The U.S. Air Force and its allies are sharpening their arguments for why a delay or reversal in replacing Cold War-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent would weaken the U.S. nuclear deterrent while China and Russia do the opposite, reports Politico.

Military officials are providing details to the media and Congress on the need for the program, warning about Russia and China’s nuclear ambitions, the age and obsolescence of the Minuteman III and making a collective effort, along with conservative national security scholars, to educate policymakers and the public about GBSD.

"This effort is about modernization," Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton, commander of the 20th Air Force, told the news outlet. "Not about more. That’s lost in a lot of the discussion. We’re looking at how we modernize our force, not how we get more ICBMs. That modernization is the way to go. We can’t life-extend this weapon system any longer.''

Arms controls groups have urged lawmakers to consider delaying the new effort in an attempt to save money — the Office of the Secretary of Defense in October projected the cost of the system to cost $264 billion over its life cycle, which could extend into the 2070s, after the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract for the engineering and manufacturing development stage of the program.

''It is the most contentious part of the modernization program and one most likely to take the most heat in the first phase of the attack,'' Franklin Miller, who oversaw the arms control portfolio on the National Security Council for President George W. Bush and advised the Trump administration on nuclear issues, told Politico. ''It will be the one that will probably be pressed hardest by the progressives because it’s got a big dollar target associated with it.''

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks during her confirmation hearing this week told senators it was difficult to assess ''exactly what the timeline and margin'' is of the GBSD program and also, ''not just resource issues, but technical feasibility issues.''

The Biden administration is reportedly considering cuts to the nuclear modernization programs and has also stated its desire to negotiate new arms control limits after extending the New START Treaty with Russia, which would mean a reduction in weapons.

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The U.S. Air Force and its allies are sharpening their arguments for why a delay or reversal in replacing Cold War-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent would weaken the U.S. nuclear deterrent while China and Russia...
airforce, gbsd, icbm, missiles, military
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2021-34-11
Thursday, 11 February 2021 04:34 PM
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