Think tank’s $75,000 review is a new round in the ICBM fight as top House defense Republicans call contract a waste of money.

By Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg

A tiny Pentagon contract for an influential Washington think tank to study the nation’s nuclear arsenal is sparking outsized congressional scrutiny, in a prelude to a bigger fight over whether to spend billions of dollars buying new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The $75,000 contract awarded in December to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will result in a five- to seven-page unclassified paper later this month examining “the relative risks and benefits of various options regarding the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.”

missile in air

Citing previous studies and bipartisan congressional support for new ICBMs, the top Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services committees — Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma– backed language in the $768.2 billion defense policy bill that President Joe Biden signed last month demanding documents on any contract studying whether to extend the service of aging Minuteman III missiles first deployed in 1970 or on “the future of the intercontinental ballistic missile force.”

“There’s no way yet another review can possibly provide any insights that would outweigh a decade’s worth of previous analyses,” Inhofe said in a statement. “It’s puzzling why the administration has insisted on pursuing yet another review of the same thing.” Both lawmakers called it a waste of money.

The tiff reflects a divide over the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense policy — and in defense budgeting — and it foreshadows a major political battle this year after the Pentagon releases a new Nuclear Posture Review.

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