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March 6, 2024 (EIRNS)—The cost overruns plaguing the U.S. Air Force’s program to replace the aging Minuteman III ICBMs with the new Sentinel ICBM are in the spotlight. The Air Force seems to want it regardless of the January report that the program had exceeded its original cost estimate by 37%, well beyond the point that the program could be threatened with termination under the 1980s’ Nunn-McCurdy law. “I want to ensure that I have a weapon system that will deliver the capabilities that I need to deliver,” Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, head of Strategic Command (STRATCOM), on Feb. 29 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, answering a question about the cost increases from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), reported former Washington Post national security reporter Walter Pincus on the Cipher Brief. “I also need to make sure that we don’t create a larger gap in having assessments that would drive us to now question one leg of the Triad in regard to how it could perform.”

“Sentinel will be funded,” said Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs Lt. Gen. Rick Moore at a January Center for Strategic and International Studies event, reported The Hill. “We’ll make the trades that it’s going to take to make that happen.” But some members of Congress are increasingly frustrated over rising cost estimates and anxious to pump the brakes on the program.

The problem goes well beyond the missile itself. The Air Force plans to root out and replace practically all of the infrastructure associated with the current Minuteman III fleet, including refurbishing the silos and launch control centers and the command and control system, which still relies on copper phone lines laid down in the 1960’s.

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