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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
U.S. ICBM Cuts Completed

Wade Boese

The United States over the past year reduced its land-based ICBM fleet by 50 missiles, leaving a force of 450 nuclear-armed Minuteman IIIs in silos spread across Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

On June 29, 2007, the Air Force chief of staff ordered the deactivation of the 50 missiles, and Air Force personnel July 28 removed the final missile booster from its silo. The Air Force Aug. 15 officially "inactivated" the unit previously responsible for the missiles, the 564th Missile Squadron, which operated out of Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Current plans call for maintaining the 50 empty silos and five unmanned missile alert facilities in a "caretaker status," meaning that they will be sealed up but not destroyed. The warheads previously arming the missiles are scheduled for dismantlement by the Department of Energy's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, while the missile components have been sent to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where they might be used in flight testing or as spares.

The Pentagon in 2006 revealed its intention to cut the missiles, a decision resisted futilely by Montana's congressional delegation. The reductions help fulfill the May 2002 U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which commits the two countries to lower their operationally deployed strategic forces to fewer than 2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012. The limitation, however, expires at the end of that same day.

The Department of State earlier this year reported to Congress that the United States was confident it would meet its SORT obligations, noting that there were 2,871 U.S. operationally deployed strategic warheads at the close of 2007. No total was provided for Russia, but the report stated that all indications suggest Russia also plans to meet its limit.