Mitchell: Nuclear Modernization Critical to US Security

The US can’t afford not to modernize its nuclear force, especially its land-based missiles, according to a new report from AFA’s Mitchell Institute, which was released on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Speaking during the rollout ceremony, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said “the globe is not getting any safer” so it is critical that a modernized land-based missile be acquired now to support the extension of American military and diplomatic power. Retired Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, who authored the report and once oversaw the nation’s ICBM force, said the high alert level of the Minuteman III missiles serves as the backbone of the nuclear deterrent and commanders need the “stabilizing” character of a new ground-based missile system in the face of more aggressive and better nuclear-armed adversaries. He also emphasized that the current system, though still a capable deterrent force, is becoming more and more costly to maintain and sustain. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), co-chairman of the Senate ICBM coalition, who also spoke at the ceremony, said the 25-year cost of a modernized Minuteman force—some $42 billion—was actually $20 billion less than the annual fraud in the Medicare program. It’s also the least expensive of all elements of the nuclear deterrent to operate in a modernized mode, he added. Hoeven said that in the face of massive Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization, as well as North Korean nuclear threats, the US must modernize its nuclear force, especially a new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. (See also: Burg’s op-ed in Breaking Defense.)