WASHINGTON – A new poll found the majority of Americans support alternatives to the proposed Pentagon program to replace ICBMs with ground-based strategic deterrence.
The new study, shared exclusively with Defense News by the Federation of American Scientists and ReThink Media, found that the majority of Republicans and Democrats surveyed would be in favor of alternative solutions, including a possible extension of the life of Minuteman III’s current ICBM arsenal .
In September, Northrop Grumman won the engineering, manufacturing and development contract for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which will eventually comprise more than 650 missiles and cost around $ 264 billion over the life of the program. The company was the only bidder after Boeing dropped out of the competition in July 2019. GBSD is to replace the Minuteman III from 2029.
Supporters of the program, including senior officials from the Pentagon, have argued that the Minuteman III program is too old to safely extend its lifespan, and that GBSD is vital to American security interests. The system has been a target of progress in Congress, however, and there is hope in the non-proliferation community that the Biden government may be ready to either cut the program or completely eradicate the ground-based portion of the nuclear triad – despite expressions of support from Candidates for the incoming Department of Defense.
The poll spoke to 800 registered voters between October 12 and 20, and included an over-sample of 200 registered voters in the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming to get a deeper look at the mindset of residents of states with ICBM to get over the guns. The error rate was plus or minus 3.4 percent.
Answer to “What do you think the government should do about ICBMs? Which of the following statements is closest to your personal opinion, even if none is perfect? “30 percent were in favor of overhauling existing ICBMs rather than replacing them. 26 percent of respondents supported the full ICBM exchange plan, 20 percent approved the elimination of ICBMs altogether, and 10 percent approved the elimination of ICBMs from all nuclear weapons.
Republicans (38 percent) were more supportive of the GBSD program than Democrats (19 percent). That still means, however, that alternative measures – 60 percent total – are supported between both parties for the current cuts to the GBSD program, which is a large number of respondents, said Matt Korda, who co-led the electoral efforts for the Federation of American Scientists headed.
“There’s a reason the majority of respondents are in favor of alternative guidelines to the GBSD, and it’s the same reason a growing number of senior military and civilian officials are openly questioning the program today: these missiles no longer play a role in the fight most of the problems are major security challenges of our time, ”said Korda. “Is this really the best investment in our collective security that we could make right now? Our survey results suggest the opposite. “
“Prior to his election, Joe Biden stated that he will likely conduct a full US nuclear policy review and it appears that his nuclear policy team may be interested in carefully examining the status of the GBSD program as well as the future role of ICBMs in US nuclear strategy, ”added Korda. “Now that its administration has begun, these poll results suggest that the public would overwhelmingly support these efforts.”
In any survey, how a question is asked is important and can skew the results. In this case, the question included the statement that the GBSD contract “is going to be awarded to a single company, which is very unusual since a lack of competition generally leads to program costs increasing significantly” and that “there is no precedent for an individual there is a source contract of this size that could affect respondents’ responses.
You can find detailed information on the survey here. You can find an official summary here.
A second question – whether to postpone the GBSD program for an overall review while further extending the life of Minuteman III’s ICBMs – was more definitive with 64 percent of those who were in favor of the idea and 18 percent who were against it.
In a broader sense, respondents asked respondents to rate the issues that would make them feel more confident. COVID-19 topped the list; While issues such as national unity and better health care had a high priority, the three military options – a larger Defense Department budget, modernized nuclear weapons, and an increased conventional arsenal – came last.
As with all defense projects exposed to potential change, the economic impact factor plays an important role – especially in Congress, where members from Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming have ICBMs in their backyards as part of what is known as the nuclear sector.
To counter this argument, the survey included a question for residents of these five states asking if they would support the removal of ICBMs if it meant guaranteed employment and income for anyone whose job it displaces becomes. Forty-eight percent of respondents in these states strongly or in some way supported the use of this case.
But is such an economical replacement possible? The authors found that such economic tradeoffs play a role in efforts like the New Green Deal and fit into the Biden administration’s motto, “Better back it down,” and therefore believe the idea could gain momentum.
“For the $ 260 billion life cycle cost of the GBSD program, the United States could create over 3 million additional jobs if that money was used in other industries,” White said. “This poll shows that Americans are rightly more concerned with job security than defense security. If we are to keep cutting disproportionate defense spending, the Biden administration has the evidence and the political platform to make it happen while protecting job stability for the American public. “