Great Falls Tribune: Senators Push for ICBM Upgrade at Malmstrom

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines said Tuesday they are pushing the Obama administration to take steps to update the ICBM fleet at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, they reiterated their support for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which is scheduled to replace the Minuteman III fleet and provide a next-generation land component of the U.S. nuclear triad.

They said modernizing Malmstrom’s ICBM fleet is the best way to ensure that the United States maintains a safe, reliable and cost-effective deterrent that aids national security.

“Given the wide array of strategic challenges facing the United States, we believe that anything less could dramatically degrade the value of our nation’s strategic deterrent, and could unnecessarily hinder our ability to protect this nation from the growing capabilities of our adversaries,” they wrote.

As you know, the ICBM fleet remains a critical cornerstone of our nation’s nuclear triad,” they wrote. “It provides a widely dispersed target set that complicates any adversary plan to threaten the United States, and it serves as an overwhelming barrier against any aspiring nuclear power mounting a nuclear challenge to our nation,” the senators wrote.

They noted that this summer the Air Force gave Congress a cost comparison of extending life of Minutemen missiles with a Ground Based Strategic Deterrent system. They found the Ground Based system would meet requirements to maintain viability against adversaries. They also determined it was less expensive to develop a new system than to extend the life of the old.

“Therefore, GBSD would not provide the warfighter with a more capable weapons system to address both current and future threats, but it would also make sense from a taxpayer perspective,” Daines and Tester wrote.

Last month, Tester, a Democrat, and Daines, a Republican, called on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership to include ICBM modernization provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act.

In July, they urged Defense Secretary Ash Carter to advance ICBM nuclear modernization as expeditiously as possible, including taking critical steps to develop and procure the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

According to manufacturer Northrup Grumman, Ground Based Strategic Deterrent systems incorporate missile technologies to increase performance, security and nuclear safety while reducing life cycle costs and modernizing the infrastructure.

The company said the GBSD represents a recapitalization of the full weapons system.

Also signing the letter were North Dakota Sens. Hedi Heitkamp and John Hoven and Montana Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso.