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Hoeven, Heitkamp call on Trump administration, Congress to support land-based missile modernization

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, right, discusses Minot Air Force Base with members of Task Force 21, Minot's base retention and new mission committee, Wednesday. At the left is Mark Jantzer, Task Force 21 chairman. Photo by Minot Daily News.

MINOT, N.D.—U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said a white paper on the nuclear triad, authored by his office and released by a coalition Wednesday, calls on the Trump administration and Congress to support the modernization of the missiles that form the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.

The white paper was released by Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and the Senate Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Coalition.

"It's really all about the importance of ICBMs in the triad, and it's particularly important right now to have this out there and raising the profile advocating the ICBMs with the new administration coming in because we are developing the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the follow-on to the ICBM missile," Hoeven told members of Minot's Task Force 21 during a meeting at the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday.

Heitkamp said in a news release,"To protect our national security, we need to reinforce the value of our intercontinental ballistic missiles with the president-elect and his staff. As Defense Secretary Ash Carter said when he visited Minot Air Force Base in September, the nuclear deterrent at bases like Minot is the bedrock of our security and the highest priority mission of the Department of Defense. This bipartisan paper demonstrates how the next administration can bolster the credibility of our deterrent by robustly supporting the nuclear triad."

Minot Air Force Base's 91st Missile Wing is one of three operational wings with ICBMs. The Minot wing has 150 ICBMs in underground facilities in several counties in this area of North Dakota. The other wings are at F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB in Montana.

Hoeven told members of Task Force 21, Minot's base retention and new mission committee, the current administration wanted to reduce the number of silos but an amendment he and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana were able to get through keeps all 450 missile silos.

"Now as we go into the replacement for the ICBM it is very important to continue to advocate as to why the ICBM is so important," Hoeven told the Task Force 21 members.

The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program will be the replacement for the 1970s-era Minuteman III ICBMS.

Hoeven said $114 million has been secured in the National Defense Authorization Act to move forward with development of the GBSD.

In the white paper, ICBM Coalition members noted that the nation's triad of nuclear bombers, submarine-based missiles and land-based missiles has been very successful in deterring threats to the United States and its allies. They argue further that ICBMs remain critical to the success of the nuclear triad, given the rising threats from Russia, China, North Korea and elsewhere.

This is the second white paper produced by the Senate ICBM Coalition. The coalition previously authored a white paper in 2009 before Senate consideration of the New START agreement with Russia.

Senators signing the white paper include Hoeven, Heitkamp, Tester and Steve Daines, both Montana, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both Wyoming, and Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Utah.

Hoeven, who also spoke to Minot's Golden Kiwanis Club Wednesday, highlighted some of the provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act recently passed by Congress during his meeting with the Kiwanians and Task Force 21 members. They include:

— $18 million authorized for the Air Force to begin replacing the UH-1N helicopters that provide security for the ICBMs in the Minot missile field.

— Authorizes funds to continue upgrades to the B-52s internal weapons bay and authorization of new projects to modernize the B-52, which includes developing a new advanced radar system and equipping Line of Sight Tactical Data Link. Currently the B-52 is the only combat aircraft without Line of Sight TDL.

— Authorizes $95 million for research and development on a new nuclear cruise missile to replace the aging air-launched cruise missile carried on the B-52.

Minot AFB is one of two bases with B-52 bombers. The other base is Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

— Authorizes an across-the-board pay raise of 2.1 percent for all servicemen and women.

Mark Jantzer, chairman of Task Force 21, said Hoeven was honored recently with the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Award. The award, presented to Hoeven by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, goes to individuals who made a profound contribution to the Air Force on the national level, and facilitate substantial progress to the Air Force mission.

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