The Air Force considered but discarded a mobile version of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, because of the cost, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday. When the GBSD—which will replace the Minuteman III ICBM—first came up for discussion, “the first question I asked was, are we looking at mobile?” Welsh told reporters during his last meeting as Chief with the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. USAF experimented with mobile ICBMs in the 1980s—using trucks, railcars, and even C-5 airlifters as potential launch platforms for a “Midgetman” missile—because of concerns about Soviet missile precision and the danger of an effective first strike. In the analysis of alternatives for the GBSD, “we talked about [missile mobility] at great length, actually,” Welsh said, but “it’s an expensive option.” The “focus” of discussion moved on to simply replacing the missiles and re-using as much of the infrastructure as possible, he said. Welsh affirmed his support for the triad, saying a new GBSD is “the right approach,” but reiterated his call for a “national debate” on the strategic nuclear deterrent, urging that the nation needs to fund this foundational capability such that it is “credible and viable.” Static ICBMs in silos are a “really cheap” capability and offer a “very good, … very responsive” nuclear option when weighed against submarine-launched missiles or bombers, he asserted. “It’s just not as expensive as everyone seems to think it is,” he added.
Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and head of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, is pushing a “portfolio” approach to requirements and wants his position to have “more teeth” so he can enforce it.