AFA: Despite Cost Challenges, Sentinel Critical to National Security and Must be Funded 

May 23, 2024

Arlington, Va. — As the most responsive leg of the nuclear triad, a modernized intercontinental ballistic missile system is vital to our national security and is needed to meet the requirements outlined in the National Defense Strategy.  

During consideration of the Fiscal Year 2025 National Defense Authorization bill by the House Armed Services Committee, the Air & Space Forces Association sent a letter to the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Ranking Member, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), opposing efforts by Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) to slow, or even end, development of our nation’s replacement for the land-based component of our nuclear triad.  

“For the last three years there has been a legislative effort to not only eliminate  the Sentinel ICBM program, but even more importantly, undermine the land-based leg of our nuclear triad,” said AFA President & CEO Lt. Gen. Burt Field, USAF (Ret.) “I am heartened to see that this effort has failed once again in the House Armed Services Committee by a large bipartisan majority.”  

Garamendi’s amendments will not be included in the Chairman’s mark of the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, although he may still bring amendments up on the floor.  

The fate of the Sentinel program, expected to replace the decades old Minuteman III ICBM, remains unclear due to critical cost and schedule overruns that exceed the threshold of the Nunn-McCurdy law. However, senior Department of Defense officials recently reaffirmed the critical importance of maintaining each leg of the triad.  

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing in April, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall was asked “ … what is the value of the land-based leg of the triad?” He replied, “ … You cannot put a value price tag on that … The risk of a preemptive surprise attack that decapitates us or takes out our nuclear force becomes much higher, if there’s no ICBM leg. If the stealth of the submarines is broken and the bombers are caught on their bases, you don’t have anything left. We’ve looked at tons of scenarios. We’ve looked at all sorts of different opportunities and possibilities. The triad provides the most stable configuration.” 

The Pentagon has 120 days from when it submitted its fiscal 2025 defense budget request to decide whether it will certify the Sentinel program. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William A. LaPlante has said he expects the review process to conclude in July.  

About AFA 

The Air & Space Forces Association is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 association dedicated to advocating for investment and support for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, and for supporting Airmen, Guardians, and their Families. Founded in 1946, AFA is the single largest entity of its kind focused on air and space power. With more than 113,000 members and 200 chapters spread around the world, our mission is to promote dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong National Defense; to honor and support Airmen, Guardians, and their Families; and to remember and respect the enduring heritage of the Air and Space Forces.