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Enzi, Barrasso: Hagel's ICBM positions are cause for alarm

Senators join bipartisan ICBM coalition in questioning Sen. Hagel's record of supporting the reduction of our nuclear deterrent

January 30, 2013

Today, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., joined the bipartisan Senate Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Coalition in requesting Secretary of Defense nominee, Senator Chuck Hagel, clarify his position on the future of our ICBM force as a nuclear deterrent.

“America’s ICBM force is a necessary part of our national defense and acts as a visual deterrent against those who would do us harm,” said Enzi. “I hope Sen. Hagel will provide some clarity on his positions in regards to our nuclear triad and reaffirm the importance our ICBMs play in keeping our country safe.”

“Our nation’s ICBM force plays a critical role in ensuring our country has an effective nuclear deterrent,” said Barrasso. “Senator Hagel needs to explain exactly why he advocated for eliminating all of our ICBMs. Our next Secretary of Defense must be committed to modernizing our nuclear triad, not weakening it.”

In addition to Senators Enzi and Barrasso, the letter was signed by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Full text of the letter below:

January 30, 2013

The Honorable Chuck Hagel

Georgetown University

Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

Box 571016

Washington, DC 20057

Dear Senator Hagel:

As Members of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Coalition, we write today to seek clarification on your position with respect to the nuclear triad.

The Global Zero U.S. Nuclear Policy Commission Report you co-authored recommended significantly reducing our nuclear deterrent over the next 10 years to a total of just 900 nuclear weapons. The report specifically recommended eliminating the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad. The report also calls for the cancellation of the Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) which has been set up to study the next generation nuclear ICBM. These proposals go well beyond any nuclear reduction proposals officially proposed by the Administration.

We strongly believe taking this drastic and irreversible step unilaterally would greatly damage the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent and therefore be extremely destabilizing to the global nuclear order. In contrast to the Global Zero report, which recommends eliminating the ICBM land based force and moving to a dyad of primarily submarines and a few bombers, we support maintaining a triad that includes land-based ICBMs. Doing so remains a critical investment in our nation’s most cost-effective nuclear deterrent.

It is clear that land-based ICBMs are the most stabilizing component of our triad as the structure of these forces effectively deters a preemptive attack. That is why we have great concerns about reports of further cuts on the horizon. Such cuts to our nuclear forces or proposals to alter the triad would leave us with fewer options – thereby reducing the flexibility Commanders in Chief need to keep us safe. The cuts would also fail to deliver significant budget savings over the next ten years and compromise the strength of our industrial base.

To learn more of your views on these matters, we respectfully request clarity on the following questions:

Do you support eliminating the land-based leg of the triad?

Do you support the continuation of the AOA that will inform the development of the follow-on ICBM?

If confirmed by the Senate, do you commit to carry out the President’s promise to modernize all three legs of the triad?

We are proud to advocate on behalf of the valuable role our nuclear triad plays in providing stability and security for our nation. Over the years, we have remained ever mindful of the missileers, maintainers and security forces and their mission. They are top-notch men and women who go out into the field day in and day out to ensure our ICBMs are safe, secure and effective.

We look forward to your written response to these questions and wish you the best as you move through the confirmation process.