As the Biden administration conducts its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the administration is opposing a draft defense authorization bill provision that would prohibit a reduction below 400 Boeing [BA] Minuteman III ICBMs.

Section 1626 of a House report on its version of the bill “would prohibit the Department of Defense from reducing, or preparing to reduce, the responsiveness or alert level of the intercontinental ballistic missiles of the United States during fiscal year 2022.”

“It would also prohibit the Department from reducing the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles of the United States below 400,” the bill report says. “The provision contains exceptions to the prohibition for maintenance, sustainment, safety, security, and reliability.”

The House passed its version of the defense authorization bill in September.

Section 1543 of the Senate bill would prohibit the “obligation or expenditure of fiscal year 2022 funds to reduce deployed U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles’ responsiveness, alert level, or quantity to fewer than 400” and has a similar exception to the House bill.

A Nov. 17 Statement of Administration Policy on the Senate bill, S. 2792, opposes the provision prohibiting the reduction in deployed ICBMs below 400.

“The administration objects to this restriction while the force structure is under review as part of the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR),” according to the Statement of Administration Policy. “This language would constrain the President’s ability to propose the nuclear force he determines is necessary.”

In September, the U.S. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Hill AFB, Utah, awarded Boeing a contract potentially worth more than $1.6 billion through 2039 for guidance repair of the company’s 400 Minuteman IIIs (Defense Daily, Sept. 17).

The Air Force has said that Boeing might find work on future modernization and maintenance programs for the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) next generation ICBM–work that would be akin to Northrop Grumman’s role in Minuteman III refurbishment a decade ago.

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed strategic stability and arms control this week, and the White House said that they will hold further talks.

The Biden-Xi virtual meeting comes on the heels of the Nov. 3 publication of the latest DoD report on China’s military activities, a report that says that Beijing may have an arsenal of at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 –a fivefold increase from the 200 warheads the country is estimated to have (Defense Daily, Nov. 3).