Potentially Affected Landowners FAQs
On 15 November of 2021, the United States Air Force sent out over 6,000 letters to landowners identified as having an ownership interest in property that may require future access for construction and maintenance of a new or existing GBSD utility corridor or a communications tower on a portion of their property. Below are some answers to some frequently asked questions.
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How do I obtain a copy of the letter?
If you did not receive a copy of the letter via U.S. Mail, please click here to view a copy of the letter.
What is the Air Force doing?
The United States Air Force is preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential impacts on the human and natural environments of deploying the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system and decommissioning and disposing of the Minuteman III ICBM system (the Proposed Action). Deployment-related actions would occur both on-base and in the missile fields at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB), WY; Malmstrom AFB, MT; and Minot AFB, ND. Additional maintenance, training, storage, testing, support, decommissioning, and disposal actions would occur at Hill AFB, UT; the Utah Test and Training Range, UT; Camp Guernsey, WY; and Camp Navajo, AZ. The EIS will be prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (Title 42 United States Code § 4321); the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500–1508); and the Air Force Environmental Impact Analysis Process (EIAP) as codified in 32 CFR Part 989. The Wyoming Army National Guard is a cooperating agency for this EIS.
What does the project involve?
GBSD deployment activities would include replacing all land-based Minuteman III ICBMs in the United States, including motors, interstages, and missile guidance sets, with the GBSD weapon system, a technologically advanced ICBM system. All launch facilities, communication systems, infrastructure, and technologies would be modernized and replaced as necessary to support the GBSD system. The Proposed Action would not include generating or disposing of nuclear material, and the number of land-based nuclear missiles would remain unchanged. Decommissioning and disposal activities would include destruction of all Minuteman III weapon systems and associated components to prevent their further use for their originally intended purpose. While certain components and subsystems of the Minuteman III have been upgraded, most of the fundamental infrastructure used today is the nearly 50-year-old original equipment. Deployment of the GBSD system would begin in the mid-2020s, extending the capabilities of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad through at least 2075.
What is the purpose of and need for the proposed project?
Under federal law and to meet national security requirements, the Air Force must implement a strategy “to accelerate the development, procurement, and fielding of the ground based strategic deterrent program” (John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 [Public Law 115-232 Section 1663]). The law directs:
…that the GBSD program includes the recapitalization of the full intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system for 400 deployed missiles and associated spares and 450 launch facilities, without phasing or splitting the program, including with respect to the missile flight system, ground based infrastructure and equipment, appropriate command and control elements.
The purpose of the action is to replace all land-based MMIII missiles deployed in the continental United States with the GBSD system. The need for the action is to comply with Public Law 115-232, as outlined above.
What is the purpose of the GBSD program?
The MMIII system became operational in the early 1970s and is facing substantial operational and sustainment challenges. The missile’s architecture has become increasingly difficult to sustain as the industrial base has advanced beyond the technologies it currently employs. MMIII support facilities were built approximately 60 years ago and most of the fundamental infrastructure it uses today is the original equipment.
The United States’ nuclear triad remains robust, flexible, resilient, and ready, but it must be modernized to maintain a credible deterrent against existing and emerging threats. The GBSD program would deliver a low-risk, affordable total system replacement to address ICBM capability gaps and provide more efficient operations, maintenance, and security. The GBSD system would offer increased accuracy, extended range, enhanced security, and improved reliability. It would be modular with an open system architecture, adaptable and responsive to the challenges posed by the pace of technological change, and would extend the capabilities of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad through 2075.
The Air Force considered extending the service life of the MMIII ICBM, and it was determined that a life extension program for the MMIII over the fiscal year 2016–2075 time frame would be similar in cost to deploying the replacement ICBM system, but without providing a system that would meet future requirements and lower sustainment costs over its own life cycle.
The GBSD program would ensure the United States continues to have effective, responsive, and resilient ICBMs and associated infrastructure for the land-based leg of the nuclear triad and the capacity and adaptability to manage and respond to shifting global requirements. The proposed ICBMs and supporting upgrades would allow the United States to continue to offer long-term tangible evidence to both allies and potential adversaries of our nuclear weapons capabilities, thus contributing to nuclear deterrence and assurance, and providing a hedge against arms competition.
What issues will the EIS cover?
The EIS will assess the potential environmental consequences of deploying the GBSD weapon system and decommissioning and disposing of the Minuteman III system. The EIS will also analyze the No Action Alternative, which serves as the baseline against which to compare the Proposed Action. Under the No Action Alternative, the Air Force would continue to maintain and operate the Minuteman III weapon system in its current configuration and the GBSD system would not be deployed.
Why did I receive a letter?
You received a letter because a limited portion of your property may support future GBSD infrastructure. You have been identified as having an ownership interest in property that may require future access for construction and maintenance of a new GBSD utility corridor or a communications tower on a portion of the property. Newly proposed utility corridors and their associated easements and communication towers would be established to support the GBSD missile system. Attached is a figure for your convenience. Notably, we are not seeking access to your property at this time, but the Air Force did want to ensure you were contacted and made aware that future access and acquisition of a limited property interest may be required so that you can provide comments or concerns regarding the GBSD proposal. The Air Force does not anticipate the need to contact any landowners to negotiate easements or land purchase until calendar year 2023, and you will be contacted separately if access becomes necessary.
When did the scoping period begin and what does it involve?
The scoping period for the GBSD EIS began with publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS in the Federal Register on September 25, 2020. Advertisements were also published in local newspapers notifying the public of the EIS scoping period. The scoping process is used to involve the public early in planning and developing the EIS and to help identify issues to be addressed in the environmental analysis. Because of public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Air Force will not hold face-to-face public scoping meetings. Instead, scoping materials that would have been presented at the meetings are available for review on the project website at https://www.gbsdeis.com. On the website, you will find information about the NEPA process, details of the Proposed Action and alternatives, and opportunities for public engagement and providing comments.
How do I provide comments?
Scoping comments can be provided via a comment form on the project website, via email to email@example.com, or in writing to Tetra Tech, Inc., c/o Jennifer Jarvis, 10306 Eaton Place, Suite 340, Fairfax, VA 22030, ATTN: GBSD Comments. Although comments will be accepted at any time during the EIAP, the Air Force requests that you provide your comments within 30 days, to ensure their consideration during the preparation of the Draft EIS. If you are unable to access the website or would like to request digital copies of the scoping materials, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.