Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the Pentagon is committed to correcting what he calls decades of shortchanging its nuclear forces.
Carter spoke Monday at a nuclear missile and bomber base in Minot, North Dakota. He says $108 billion is earmarked for sustaining and improving the forces over the next five years.
Carter was taken 85 feet underground to a Minuteman 3 missile launch control center, and visited B-52 bomber crews and facilities.
Carter thanked the nuclear work force and expressed support for building a new generation of nuclear-armed missiles, bombers and submarines – a plan expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
Earlier he flew by helicopter to a Minuteman 3 missile field and was taken 85 feet underground to a launch control center where two airmen are always present – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – and ready to execute a presidential order to launch. The nuclear-tipped Minuteman 3 can reach a target on the other side of the globe in about 30 minutes.
It was Carter’s first visit to a nuclear weapons base as defense chief.
In his speech, Carter argued that even though the Cold War is long over, nuclear weapons are still needed to deter Russian and other potential aggressors from thinking they could get away with a nuclear attack.
“It is a sobering fact that the most likely use of nuclear weapons today is not the massive ‘nuclear exchange’ of the classic Cold War-type, but rather the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example by Russia or North Korea,” he said.
He sketched an international security landscape dotted with nuclear dangers. He accused Russia of “nuclear sabre rattling” and North Korea of nuclear and missile provocations.
“A diverse and dynamic spectrum of nuclear threats still exists,” he said, adding that this makes it imperative that the U.S. ramp up its plan to modernize its nuclear weapons.
“We’re now beginning the process of correcting decades of underinvestment in nuclear deterrence — and I do mean decades, because it dates back to the end of the Cold War.”
He said the Pentagon plans to spend $108 billion over the next five years to sustain and improve its nuclear force.