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AF leadership reinforces importance of nuclear mission on the Hill

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force nuclear deterrence operations serve a central role in providing deterrence and maintaining stability in today’s increasingly complex national security environment.

Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the assistant chief of staff, strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, testified recently before the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces along with other Department of Defense witnesses on the fiscal year 2015 Atomic Energy Defense and Nuclear Forces budget.

In his prepared statement, Harencak underscores the level of dedication the Air Force has for sustaining its nuclear forces.

“In order to maintain this vital capability for our nation and our allies who rely on it, the Air Force remains fully committed to making the necessary long-term investments in the development of our personnel and in the sustainment, modernization and recapitalization of our nuclear forces and supporting infrastructure” Harencak said.

Subcommittee members questioned Harencak on the life expectancy of the current intercontinental ballistic missile force and when the system would begin aging out.

Harencak responded that the Minuteman III ICBM will be sustained through 2030, and added the force will be safe and effective until then. However, the Air Force will need to carefully balance investment decisions while ensuring compatibility with future systems.

Some of the ICBM upgrades currently underway include enhancements to propulsion and guidance subsystems. In conjunction with these upgrades, the Air Force is conducting an analysis of alternatives to assess the requirements and capabilities of a follow-on ICBM, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

Air Force ICBMs are a vital element of the nation’s nuclear Triad, which also includes long-range bombers and dual capable fighters, in addition to the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines. In the coming years, the DOD will make considerable investments in recapitalizing these capabilities in order to ensure Triad remains a credible deterrent in the decades ahead.

“The World is safer today from the threat of full-scale nuclear war than it was during the Cold War,” said Andrew Weber, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. “While the role and numbers of (nuclear) weapons are being reduced, maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear stockpile is critical to deterring potential adversaries and assuring U.S. allies and partners. We ask for your support for the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request.”
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