Realignment of Missiles at Grand Forks Air Force Base
Category: Large Aircraft (Missile)
Mission: Strategic Deterrence, Strategic Mobility
One-time Cost: $11.9 million
Savings: 1996 - 2001: $111.7 million*
Annual: $35.2 million
Return on Investment- 1998 (Immediate)
FINAL ACTION: Realign
*The savings associated with the closure of the missile field were previously programmed in the Air Force budget.Secretary of Defense Recommendation
Realign Grand Forks AFB. The 321st Missile Group will inactivate unless prior to December 1996, the Secretary of Defense determines that the need to retain ballistic missile defense (EMD) options effectively precludes this action. If the Secretary of Defense makes such a determination, Minot AFB, North Dakota, will be realigned and the 91st Missile Group will inactivate.
If Grand Forks AFB is realigned, the 321st Missile Group will inactivate. Minuteman III missiles will relocate to Malmstrom AFB, Montana, be maintained at depot facilities or be retired. A small number of silo launchers at Grand Forks may be retained if required. The 319th Air Refueling Wing will remain in place. All activities and facilities at the base associated with the 319th Air Refueling Wing, including family housing, the hospital, commissary, and base exchange will remain open.
If Minot AFB is realigned, the 91st Missile Group will inactivate. Minuteman III missiles will relocate to Malmstrom AFB, Montana, be maintained at depot facilities, or be retired. The 5th Bomb Wing will remain in place. All activities and facilities at the base associated with the 5th Bomb Wing, including family housing, the hospital, commissary, and base exchange will remain open.Secretary of Defense Justification
A reduction in ICBM force structure requires the inactivation of one missile group within the Air Force. The missile field at Grand Forks AFB ranked lowest due to operational concerns resulting from local geographic, geologic, and facility characteristics. Grand Forks AFB also ranked low when all eight criteria are applied to bases in the large aircraft subcategory. The airfield will be retained to satisfy operational requirements and maintain consolidated tanker resources.
If the Secretary of Defense determines that the need to retain BMD options effectively precludes realigning Grand Forks, then Minot AFB will be realigned. The missile field at Minot AFB ranked next lowest due to operational concerns resulting from spacing, ranging and geological characteristics. Minot AFB ranked in the middle tier when all eight criteria are applied to bases in the large aircraft subcategory. The airfield will be retained to satisfy operational requirements.Community Concerns
The community argues the Grand Forks missile field is the newest in the Air Force. It has always been considered fully capable of performing its assigned mission, and remains so today according to the Base Closure Executive Group. The community contends closing the Grand Forks missile field could send a misleading signal to the former Soviet Union that the United States intends to unilaterally change the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and could jeopardize any future treaty negotiations with former Soviet republics. They believe closing the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) field would unduly restrict any future ballistic missile defense options and would require the dismantlement and demolition of the existing Grand Forks ABM facilities, significantly increasing the cost to close the Grand Forks ICBM field. The community argues the Air Force erred in excluding the Minuteman field at F.E. Warren AFB from consideration because the Peacekeeper missiles there are scheduled to complete their retirement in 2003, thus providing an opportunity for a complete base closure. They also argue that retaining Grand Forks AFB as a multi-mission base (ICBMs and tankers), and completely closing Malmstrom AFB, would provide significantly greater operating efficiencies and savings than the DoD proposal to realign the missile group at Grand Forks AFB and the tanker group at Malmstrom AFB, The community believes the 50 additional Minuteman missile silos at Malmstrom AFB should carry no weight in the analysis, because the Nuclear Posture Review specifically accepts an ICBM force of 450 or 500 Minuteman missiles. The community further argues the Air Force and DoD correctly assessed the military value of Grand Forks AFB in 1993 when selecting it as a core tanker base because of its ideal location, and its capacity, facilities, and infrastructure. They believe there is no tanker saturation problem in the north central United States because on average 66 percent of the Grand Forks tanker aircraft are deployed to forward operating locations. They also point out the runway was upgraded to Code I in 1994, there is a direct fuel supply pipeline feed to the base, an improved Type III hydrant system assures rapid and effective aircraft refueling capability, and state and local zoning guarantee no future runway encroachment problems. The community notes the evaluation criteria for "Facilities Condition: Housing" is based on the number of units needing upgrade to whole house standards not current condition. Finally, the community is concerned the University of North Dakota is a strong asset in the Grand Forks community and should be taken into account in the evaluation process.Commission Findings
The Commission found all four Minuteman fields were fully capable, but the high water table at Grand Forks Air Force Base reduced survivability and required an increased level of on-site depot support. Total on-site support costs per Minuteman silo over the past three years were higher at Grand Forks AFB than at Minot or F.F, Warren AFBs, but lower than at Malmstrom AFB. Efforts to counter water intrusion accounted for five percent of these costs, and were highest at Grand Forks AFB. The missile alert rate at Grand Forks AFB has been consistently lower than at Minot AFB. The Commission agreed with the Air Force's decision to exclude F.E. Warren AFB from consideration because of a requirement for Peacekeeper missiles beyond the period after which Commission actions would be taken, and because of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty implications of directing realignment of the only Peacekeeper missile base. In addition, the Commission agreed with the Commander-in-Chief of United States Strategic Command that retention of the Malmstrom AFB missile field was militarily important because of the presence of 50 additional Minuteman silos. Thus, retention of the Malmstrom AFB missile field took precedence over the economies associated with closing Malmstrom AFB and retaining a multi-mission base at Grand Forks AFB. At the time the recommendation was received from DOD, there was uncertainty about whether there were possible treaty implications for the Grand Forks antiballistic missile (ABM) system and ballistic missile defense that would preclude inactivation of the Grand Forks AFB Minuteman field. On May 9, 1995, the Commission received a letter from the Deputy Secretary of Defense stating that representatives of DOD, the joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the National Security Council Staff had determined that ABM treaty considerations would not preclude inactivation of the Grand Forks AFB Minuteman field. The letter also stated: "Realignment of Minot AFB and inactivation of the 91st Missile Group is no longer a necessary alternative." Subsequent correspondence with DOD confirmed that inactivation of the Grand Forks AFB Minuteman field would not affect the right to retain an ABM deployment area at Grand Forks and would not require demolition of the existing ABM facilities. DoD, however, reiterated the fact that it could be necessary to leave a small number of empty Minuteman silos in place at Grand Forks AFB. Finally, the Commission found DOD included a one-time cost of $5.5 million for housing demolition at Grand Forks AFB, thereby increasing recurring savings by $3.7 million annually. This appeared to be a sound investment strategy that produced substantial savings over time, but was not necessitated by a decision to realign Grand Forks AFB. Consequently, the costs and savings associated with this action were removed from the decision COBRA.Commission Recommendation
The Commission finds the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from the force-structure plan and final criterion 1. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following: realign Grand Forks Air Force Base. The 321st Missile Group will inactivate and Minuteman III missiles will relocate to Malmstrom AFB, Montana, be maintained at depot facilities, or be retired. A small number of silo launchers at Grand Forks AFB may be retained if required. The 319th Air Refueling Wing will remain in place. All activities and facilities at the base associated with the 319th Air Refueling Wing, including family housing, the hospital, commissary, and base exchange will remain open.
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