Senator John Hoeven today told Lieutenant General James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, that the nation's missile silos are a long-term defense asset that should not be degraded. The senator said he strongly opposes any Defense Department (DOD) effort to reduce the number of nuclear missile silos and will work from his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to oppose such plans.
Last week, the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Department Comptroller acknowledged that they want the Air Force to study the possibility of eliminating ICBM silos and requested funding in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for this purpose.
"I believe the administration's request for funds to study how to eliminate nuclear missile silos is misguided," Hoeven said. "The fact is we can achieve the force levels required under the New START agreement without reducing silos and hurting our nuclear deterrent capabilities. I will therefore oppose such funding as the Appropriations Committee considers the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Department of Defense."
Since the New START agreement's ratification in 2010, the DOD has debated how to restructure U.S. strategic forces to comply with the treaty's limits on nuclear warheads and the missiles, bombers and submarines that deliver those warheads.
"New START reductions should preserve as much of our deterrent capability as possible. This means minimizing any reductions to the ICBM force, preserving all existing ICBM squadrons and ensuring all 450 silos remain fully functional," Hoeven said.
Senator Hoeven and Kowalski also discussed the DOD's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request as it relates to Minot Air Force Base. Hoeven underscored the importance of supporting the B-52 and ICBM missions as well the ongoing construction projects at the base, including work on the runway, air control tower, a new dormitory and aircraft and maintenance facilities.
Senator Hoeven is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Military Construction.