House Dems Unveil Bill To Pause Key Nuclear Upgrade Program

Minuteman ICBM launch.

Credit: USAF

A group of House Democrats led by Rep. John Garamendi of California has introduced legislation that would pause the development of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program until 2031 and extend the service life of the Minuteman III missiles to 2040. 

The proposed legislation would also stall the development of the W87-1 warhead being designed for the GBSD program. “This warhead will cost at least $12 billion to build and is in addition to the estimated GBSD procurement cost of $95 billion,” according to a June 30 statement from Garamendi’s office.

Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Don Beyer (Va.), James McGovern (Mass.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), and Lloyd Doggett (Texas) are all co-sponsoring the new measure.

“U.S. Air Force leadership has confirmed that an extension of the Minuteman III program is feasible, and a 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report states that extending the Minuteman III program would cost taxpayers $37 billion less than developing and deploying the GBSD through 2036,” a statement said.

In May at an Arms Control Association event, Garamendi outlined his plans to introduce legislation that would shake up modernization plans for the nuclear triad by pausing the GBSD program, extending the Minuteman III, and canceling the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program.

Garamendi, who serves as House Armed Services readiness subcommittee chairman, will find opposition from Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee’s full chairman. Although Smith has long been critical of the GBSD program, he told a reporter June 29 that he would support funding GBSD in fiscal 2022 to allow for the Biden administration to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review.

“It looks like it’s going to be more expensive to do a life extension on the Minuteman III than it is to do GBSD,” Smith said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that we need to have as many ICBMs as the previous [nuclear] posture review suggested or even that we need that leg of the triad.”

Garamendi has endorsements of the legislation from former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, the Arms Control Association, Ploughshares Fund, and many others.

“Supporters of the current modernization approach tell us that the only choice is to proceed full steam ahead with the current modernization plans or allow our arsenal to rust into obsolescence. This is a false choice,” Garamendi said in a statement. “My legislation acknowledges the facts and advice from various experts in this field and saves billions of dollars that can be spent to address more worthy defense needs.” 

Lee Hudson

Based in Washington, Lee covers the Pentagon for Aviation Week. Prior to joining Aviation Week in June 2018, Lee was at Inside Defense where she was managing editor for Inside the Navy.


Our adversaries are building improved nuclear arsenals while these representatives are burying their heads in the sand, hoping to repurpose funds to whatever boondoggle floats their boat. Deterrence without strength is impossible given the aggressive nature of China, Russia and Iran.
Hard to see what this brings us in improved security. Is 7.62 better than .30 cal?