Montana's Congressional Delegation, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Representative Steve Daines, stood together today to reinforce support for a strong ICBM force after President Obama spoke in favor of further reducing America's nuclear arsenal.
Baucus, Tester and Daines said many questions remain about the details of the President's plan, but pointed out that any large-scale nuclear reduction agreement would require congressional consent. The delegation reaffirmed their commitment to working together to support the ICBM mission at Malmstrom Air Force base in Great Falls. ICBMs are just one element of the United States' nuclear triad.
"Maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent keeps America safe and supports good-paying American jobs in Montana," Baucus said. "There are still a lot of questions about what exactly the President is proposing and we need answers. A strong ICBM force is absolutely critical to our national defense strategy, and I won't support anything that puts our American security in jeopardy."
"It would be misguided to further alter our nuclear stockpile before the New START Treaty is fully implemented," Tester said. "Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece of our defense strategy, and I will not support any short-sighted effort that threatens our national security."
"I am deeply concerned that not only is the President's proposal unwise and short-sighted-it could seriously diminish the long-term security of our nation. For more than 50 years, the men and women at Malmstrom Air Force Base have proudly housed the 341st Missile Wing, whose motto is 'Scaring the hell out of America's enemies since 1962.' I believe that sums up the importance of a strong nuclear deterrence program perfectly. We cannot underestimate the role that our strong nuclear defenses have played in keeping America secure and maintaining peace not only with Russia, but throughout the world," Daines said.
Today the President proposed beginning talks with Russia to further reduce America's nuclear arsenal - beyond levels decided under the New START Treaty with Russia - by one-third. Reductions under the bipartisan New START Treaty must be implemented by February, 2018. The Obama Administration previously indicated that it would not need to make any personnel reductions at Malmstrom as a result of the New START's implementation.
Funding to support additional reductions in the nuclear arsenal would have to be appropriated by Congress and any new treaty would be subject to ratification by two-thirds of the Senate.
The United States' nuclear weapons arsenal is divided into three elements: land-based missiles in silos, missiles aboard nuclear submarines, and nuclear bombers. Baucus and Tester have repeatedly pointed out that ICBMs are the most cost effective leg of the triad because they cost less to maintain than either submarines or bombers and recently underwent a thorough modernization program.
Malmstrom currently maintains and secures 150 ICBMs across north-central Montana. The ICBM mission accounts for more than 40 percent of the economy in north-central Montana and contributes to approximately 5,000 jobs.
Baucus and Tester are founding members of the Senate's bipartisan ICBM coalition and Baucus recently co-founded the greater Nuclear Triad Caucus. In April, the Senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Hagel urging him to maintain a strong nuclear weapons arsenal.
Daines has also worked in the House to protect the nation's ICBM force. Daines successfully worked to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, which was recently passed by the House, instructing the Department of Defense to maintain the nation's 450 ICBM silos in a warm status.