450 to 420 to ?

Last week I happened to read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding the New START Treaty. Gates tells us that the “treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership.”

That’s good to know, but they don’t get to vote on it.

The Obama Administration also plans to throw some incentives (around $180 billion) at the Senate to pass the treaty. The Senate starts working on the Treaty this week in the Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Senator John Kerry. It requires a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting (a quorum being present) to pass.

After reading about six paragraphs into his opinion, I found this nugget of information interesting:

Based on recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we plan to meet the Treaty’s limits by retaining a triad of up to 420 ICBMs, 14 submarines carrying up to 240 SLBMs, and up to 60 nuclear-capable heavy bombers.

As with most people who follow the military, especially those who follow the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) missions, that paragraph raised an eyebrow.

A Washington Post story tells us that “the administration will reduce the 450 ICBMs now deployed with single warheads to 420, and perhaps fewer.”

Currently, there are three ICBM bases left (Minot in North Dakota, F.E. Warren in Wyoming, and Malmstrom in Montana). They have 150 ICBMs each, which totals 450.

Faithful readers may remember that Malmstrom lost 50 ICBMs in 2007 due to the lack of clout in Washington on Defense and Military committees. The DOD’s basis for removing the 50 missiles was spun to the public as the need for future testing and because they were in a newer squadron which means we “save money” by removing them. Both ideas were hogwash in my humble opinion and created a slippery slope that does not bode well for the future of Malmstrom AFB.

So now, according to Secretary Gates, the 450 remaining ICBMs will be cut to 420. Supporters of these three bases must be wondering which base will suffer the loss.

Let the lobbying begin. Time is wasting.

There are also a couple of even bigger questions out there: Will the new, improved (and now thrifty) DOD stop at cutting 30 ICBMs or will they take another 50 (a whole squadron) to save some valuable coin after years of spending sprees. Or, will the SecDef and his Generals terminate a whole missile mission at one base and start implementing the ultimate goal of this President to rid the world of nuclear weapons?

Sadly, the world is still a very dangerous place.

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