WASHINGTON – Following their conversation last week, U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) questioned General (ret.) Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, during his Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) nomination hearing yesterday about his support for the nation’s nuclear triad, intelligence capabilities, and the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Senator Cramer first raised the issue of the nuclear triad - especially the two legs of it housed at Minot Air Force Base (AFB) - and the importance of advancing nuclear modernization efforts. Senator Cramer has been using his seat on SASC to ensure the timeline for replacing the Minutemen III’s housed at Minot AFB with the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) stays on track.
“You’re going to get a lot of pressure … to delay the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and maybe even shrink it,” said Senator Cramer. “Do you think we can extend the life of the Minutemen III even if that means unilaterally decreasing our nuclear deterrent?”
General Austin committed to reviewing this issue once confirmed and working with Senator Cramer on these efforts.
“I really need to sit down .. and take a look at where we are in that modernization effort,” said General Austin. “When I do, I would love to have that discussion with you.”
Senator Cramer invited him to Minot to see these efforts firsthand.
The senator also spoke to the general about Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) programs like the RQ-4 Global Hawk in Grand Forks and the MQ-9 Reaper in Fargo. Because he recently retired from military service, General Austin will also require a waiver - approved by both chambers of Congress - to be eligible to serve as Defense Secretary.