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Letter to Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of Defense


Location: Washington, DC

Representative Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL) today joined Representatives Denny Rehberg (MT-AL) and Rick Berg (ND-AL) in asking Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to preserve America's land-based intercontinental ballistic missile ICMB force at the highest level for the sake of national security.

"We have to cut spending, period-- and our Defense budget has to be part of the solution. But our land-based intercontinental ballistic missile force is of such critical strategic importance that we must keep it intact. Just recently modernized through 2030, it is the most reliable, stabilizing and cost-effective leg of our nuclear apparatus," Lummis said. "The constant readiness of the airmen at F.E. Warren makes a successful nuclear attack against the United States a nearly impossible endeavor."

"One of the primary responsibilities of the federal government is to ensure our national security," said Denny Rehberg, the only member of Montana's delegation who didn't vote to ratify the START Treaty and who recently organized a START Treaty Working Group in Great Falls. "While the current fiscal crisis threatens our economic future, we must not try to solve that problem by taking shortcuts with national security. I'm going to make sure that Defense Secretary Panetta understands the critical role of these missiles in our national defense."

"North Dakota's two Air Force Bases play a critical role in protecting our nation," Rick Berg stated. "As we work to get our fiscal house back in order, we also must be sure to support our priorities and not jeopardize our national security. There is no doubt that our land based intercontinental ballistic missile force is essential to our national defense, and I urge Secretary Panetta to reconsider any calls for reductions to this critical, cost-effective program."

The letter comes in the wake of potentially devastating reductions in ICBMs in compliance with the New START Treaty, as well as the possibility of the total elimination of ICMB programs in the face of drastic budget cuts resulting from sequestration.

The full letter is below:

Dear Secretary Panetta:

We write to convey the critical importance of our intercontinental ballistic missile fleet to our national defense. As your Department works to implement the New START Treaty, we urge you to maintain our cost-effective, land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force at the highest possible level.

We understand that the Administration intends to reduce the number of deployed ICBMs below the current level of 450 as part of broader New START Treaty compliance efforts. Even more concerning are the calls from some outside of the Administration for steep ICBM reductions or even the abandonment of the ICBM force altogether, which would far surpass any reduction contemplated by the New START Treaty. We strongly support the current ICBM level of 450 ICBMs, which has helped keep America safe for decades and continues to do so in an ever-changing strategic environment.

We believe your Department should heed the conclusions of the Strategic Posture Commission and Nuclear Posture Review, which reaffirmed the nuclear triad and considered a dyad or monad structure destabilizing in unpredictable ways. Each of the three components of the triad has unique and complementary capabilities. As your Administration contemplates a smaller nuclear force, however, the stabilizing aspects of the triad become even more important. As argued by General Larry Welch, the ICBM is the most stabilizing and therefore the most valuable portion of our nuclear arsenal in the post-New START context. A sizable ICBM force will continue to deter near-peer competitors and dissuade other would-be competitors from developing a sizable force. Specifically, a dispersed, sovereign-based and single-warhead armed ICBM force makes a successful preemptive or attrition attack nearly impossible.

We are committed to addressing the debt crisis facing our nation. We understand the paramount task ahead of your Department in reducing your budget without sacrificing national security. This will require difficult decisions, but arbitrarily reducing one of our nation's most cost-effective strategic assets is not the answer. ICBM's require just one-fifth to one-third of the annual operating cost of the submarine-launched leg of the triad. Additionally, the ICBM force is currently in the final stages of a more than decade-long effort to replace and modernize critical missile components, which enhances the cost-effectiveness of the Minuteman III program over the next two decades.

Thank you in advance for your attention to these issues. Please keep us informed of your Department's continued deliberations on the future of our ICBM force.

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