Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stopped in Cheyenne Thursday on a rare tour of nuclear missile bases in the West. Speaking to troops at the F.E. Warren Air Force base, Hagel said the Obama administration is committed to maintaining U.S. nuclear capabilities, but he remained vague on potential changes to the intercontinental ballistic missile program.
One-third of the nation’s land-based nuclear missiles are overseen by the base in Cheyenne. Recent anti-proliferation treaties and the budget cuts known as sequestration led to calls for ending the missile program. But in response to a question from a serviceman, he said the program is critical, and will need investment and modernization.
“Unfortunately, the world is very dangerous, and it’s going to stay very dangerous, and we’re going to have to count on a strong, second-to-none nuclear deterrent,” Hagel said.
The Secretary also addressed a recent report that detailed high levels of burnout among troops responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The report, obtained by the Associated Press in November, documented behavioral issues among the troops, and the commander of the land-based missile program was fired earlier in the year for a drinking incident in Russia. Hagel said the troops in charge of the nuclear arsenal are a critical link in the country’s defense forces.
"Sometimes I suspect you feel maybe that no one cares, or that no one is paying attention to you, but we are,” he said.
Hagel was touring a number of nuclear bases around the West in an effort to boost morale.