The Obama administration has drafted a plan to shutter an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) squadron three years after it assured hesitant lawmakers that the New START U.S.-Russia arms reduction treaty would not lead to deep cuts in the ICBM force.
A new timeline prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon maps out a strategy to eliminate an ICBM squadron—and destroy its missile silos—by Dec. 5, 2017. An environmental assessment would begin next month. The document says the reductions are necessary to “meet the New START Treaty compliance date by closing an ICBM squadron and eliminating the associated Launch Facilities.”
Several Democrats on the Senate ICBM coalition voted for New START, vowing that the treaty would maintain a strong ICBM force. Sens. Max Baucus (D.) and Jon Tester (D.), both from Montana, the home of many ICBMs, issued a press release in 2010 backing New START and saying that the missiles would “continue to play a key role in U.S. national security for decades to come.”
According to the OSD timeline, the military would begin removing ICBM missiles from their silos next October, after the environmental assessment is complete. The silo elimination would begin in May 2016 and is estimated to take 19 months.
Analysts say they are particularly troubled by the proposed destruction of the missile silos, a likely permanent move that is not required by New START. They say the silos would be difficult to rebuild if the military needs to bolster its ICBM force in the future.
“If you destroy the silos, it would be much harder to rebuild them […] and very politically difficult,” said Michaela Dodge, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
Dodge said the New START requirements could be met simply by removing the ICBMs and maintaining the empty silos in reserve status.
The administration’s plan would also shrink the ICBM force below the mandated numbers. The Air Force previously said it planned to reduce its number of ICBMs from 450 to a baseline of 420 under New START.
Shutting down a squadron would eliminate 50 ICBMs, 66 percent more than the prior Air Force proposal.
Full article: Despite Promises, Obama Planning to Close ICBM Squadron (Washington Free Beacon)