Former Pentagon Chief, Other Experts: “Get Rid of ICBMs”

John LaForge

“ICBMS aren’t necessary … they’re not needed.” – Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry

MAP: MINUTEMAN MISSILES SURROUND MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA: GRAPHIC BY BONNIE URFER FOR NUKEWATCH
MAP: MINUTEMAN MISSILES SURROUND MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA: GRAPHIC BY BONNIE URFER FOR NUKEWATCH


Speaking Dec. 3, 2015 to a defense writers group, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry called for the complete elimination of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS), the Air Force’s “Minuteman IIIs.” Secretary Perry, who headed the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton said, “ICBMS aren’t necessary … they’re not needed. Any reasonable definition of deterrence will not require that third leg.” The reference is to the nuclear weapons “triad” of submarines, bombers and missiles, the “legs” of the military’s three-part arsenal.

Secretary Perry’s declaration is perfectly timed to amplify the message of Nukewatch’s newly published Revised Edition of Nuclear Heartland: A guide to the 450 land-based Missiles of the United States (ISBN: 978-0-942046-03-8).

Defense News reports that Secretary Perry said that ICBMs, “are simply too easy to launch on bad information and would be the most likely source of an accidental nuclear war. He referred to the ICBM as ‘destabilizing’ in that it invites an attack from another power.”
The “William J. Perry Project” website notes that Sec. Perry has said, “A lifetime immersed in special access to and top-secret assessment of strategic nuclear options has given me a unique, and chilling vantage point from which to conclude that nuclear weapons no longer provide for our security, they endanger it.”

“Perry thinks the US nuclear force no longer needs land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and can rely on the other two ‘legs’ of the force – bomber aircraft and submarine-based missiles. ICBMs should be scrapped, he says, adding, ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I think it should happen. They’re not needed’ to deter nuclear aggression,” Robert Burns reported Dec. 29 for the Associated Press.

Experts declare no need for ICBMs

Secretary Perry’s analysis echoes that of other high-level military officials who have called the land-based missile system completely expendable.

General George L. Butler (USAF, Ret.), a former Chief Commander of Strategic Air Command (SAC), told the Kansas City Star  in1998 that the nuclear arsenal is “obscene” and wrote, “In the aftermath of the Cold War, nuclear weapons are a pernicious anachronism, and they are the greatest threat to our survival.”

Gen. Butler’s warning was affirmed and amplified in 2014 by Lt. General James Kowalski, Vice Commander of Strategic Command (which replaced SAC), who said, “The greatest threat to my force is an accident. The greatest risk to my force is doing something stupid.”

Another authoritative call for elimination of the Minuteman missile system came in a 2012 study conducted by a group of high-level military and political leaders chaired by General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of US nuclear forces.

Gen. Cartwright’s report, which was signed by Senator Chuck Hagel – who would later become the Secretary of Defense – concluded that a US nuclear weapons arsenal would suffice with none left on ICBMs. At a 2012 Senate hearing, Gen. Cartwright repeated this finding and testified that the Air Force’s ICBMs could be eliminated without leaving the US at risk.

Even the late Paul Nitze, a former chief presidential advisor to Ronald Reagan and a founder of the hardline anti-Soviet Committee on the Present Danger, writing in the New York Times, has said, “I see no compelling reason why we should not unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons. To maintain them … adds nothing to our security.”

Unfortunately, President Obama’s military budget for 2015 was the highest ever for nuclear weapons research and production. Simultaneously, his Administration is cutting non-proliferation funding -- as if to pay for its opposite.

The general public has to increase the volume of its calls for nuclear sanity, and we can rely on the advice of experts. As Sec. Perry said last December, “Nuclear weapons no longer provide for our security – they now endanger it.”

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