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US Minuteman III missile replacement breaks $96 billion budget

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Jan 20, 2024, 5:09:42 PMJan 20
So private enterprise like Musk keeps lowering the cost to get to space,
but the weapons projects keep getting higher ----????


US Minuteman III missile replacement breaks $96 billion budget, triggers
Pentagon review
By Mike Stone
January 18, 202410:52 PM PSTUpdated 10 hours ago

[1/2]An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile
launches during an operational test at 2:10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time
at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, U.S., August 2, 2017. Picture
taken August 2, 2017. To Match Special Report USA-NUCLEAR/ICBM U.S. Air
Force/Senior... Acquire Licensing Rights, opens new tab Read more

WASHINGTON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The replacement for the ground-based U.S.
nuclear arsenal anchored by the Minuteman III has officially busted
through its $95.8 billion budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic and
inflation, the Air Force said on Thursday.
The Air Force is notifying Congress that the program, being designed and
managed by Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), opens new tab, is now at least
37% over a pre-pandemic cost estimate finalized in September 2020,
Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics, told Reuters in an interview.
Program changes, such as making bigger silos and switching to more
durable materials, have also raised costs.
The total program cost, now estimated above $131 billion, could grow
further as the U.S. Secretary of Defense concludes a review by the summer.
While cost overruns regularly occur at the Department of Defense, the
Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is especially
expensive to replace.
The missile network is part of the so-called nuclear triad that includes
nuclear-tipped ground-based ICBM, nuclear-capable bomber aircraft and
submarine-launched nuclear arms.
"It's been over 70 years since we did the ground piece of this," Hunter
said. "We didn't estimate it well."
Blasting through cost estimate thresholds triggers the Nunn-McCurdy Act.
The 1982 law requires the Pentagon to formally justify to Congress the
importance of a program in which unit acquisition costs have risen more
than 25% above a baseline, and to show there are no alternatives.
The cost overrun is most acutely felt in modernizing the 450 missile
silos and their command infrastructure, which includes 7,500 miles of
new cables. The program will also buy trucks, training, command
buildings and 659 missiles.
The missiles themselves are not to blame for the cost overrun, Hunter said.
The $95.8 billion Minuteman III replacement program, named Sentinel, has
multiple phases including development, design and procurement. In 2020
Northrop won a $13.3 billion, opens new tab portion of that pie for an
engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract to design,
test, evaluate and advance the program.
Over time, specifications like square footage grew, things within the
silos increased and moved, and costs rose due to the new systems with
greater power and heating, ventilation and air conditioning demands, an
Air Force official said on condition of anonymity.
With 450 missile silos, any small change is magnified, the Air Force
official said.
Northrop said it "is committed to supporting the Air Force as it
assesses and updates acquisition cost forecasts for the future phases of
the program, to include construction projects, production, and
deployment of the weapon system."
Estimates generated in the $13.3 billion EMD phase indicate that the
next phase, procurement, will cost more than the $61 billion
contemplated under the $95.8 billion program topline. Procurement would
begin in the late 2020s.
When Northrop won the contract in 2020 it said, "Upon successful
completion of EMD, the Northrop Grumman team will begin producing and
delivering a modern and fully integrated weapon system to meet the Air
Force schedule of initial operational capability by 2029."
"Sentinel is absolutely necessary for the future of our nuclear
deterrent," Mike Rogers, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services
Committee, said. "I'm committed to conducting vigorous oversight of the
program and ensuring the Air Force follows through on making the
necessary changes to address the cost overruns."
"We're going to continue to execute the program while the Nunn-McCurdy
review is happening," Hunter said. "Whether the program's timeline will
shift, that is pursuant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense review."
Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang
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