Diplomatic Ceiling

By around the fall of 2017, the Air Force expects to arrive at the reduced force structure levels it must meet for the United States to comply with the New START agreement’s ceilings on strategic nuclear forces, said Maj. Gen. William Chambers, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. “We want to be at the central treaty limit a little before” the treaty’s February 2018 drawdown deadline, he told the Daily Report in a recent interview. New START requires the United States and Russia to reduce their respective arsenals to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads, 700 deployed launchers (i.e., ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers), and 800 deployed/non-deployed launchers. The Obama Administration intends to meet those caps by maintaining a mix of no more than 60 deployable nuclear-capable bombers, up to 420 deployed Minuteman missiles, and no more than 240 deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Chambers said the White House has not yet determined the final mix of forces, but the Air Force has submitted its preferred makeup of the bomber and ICBM fleets. He said the White House’s decision “has to be made” by next spring or early next summer as part of the Fiscal 2015 budget build in order to meet the drawdown timeline.