EIS Scoping / FAQs

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If the Air Force has already decided which bases are going to receive the GBSD, why are you developing an EIS?

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Air Force is required to conduct environmental analyses for any major federal action that is proposed to occur, to determine the environmental impact from the proposed activities and provide the public and other stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the action and associated analyses, and to consider all alternatives. The basing of the GBSD constitutes a major federal action, and thus an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be developed. The Air Force is considering all reasonable alternatives for fulfilling the purpose and need for the action.

Who makes the final decision on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

The Secretary of the Air Force has final decision authority after completion of the environmental analyses.

What if the analysis in the Environmental Impact Statement shows there will be a negative significant impact?

If the analysis suggests a potentially significant impact would occur from the proposed action, the Air Force would develop appropriate mitigation measures to offset any adverse impacts. The proposed action may have significant impacts that are not mitigable to less than significant.

What Military Construction (MILCON) is expected, how much is it expected to cost, and when will the Air Force break ground?

There are numerous variables that can determine when and where military construction can begin such as weather, skills, equipment and supplies. The Air Force is in the process of developing MILCON requirements, estimates and schedules that will further refine MILCON projects and budgets. Additionally, the Environmental Impact Statement currently being conducted will provide some information on proposed construction activities associated with the preferred Main Operating Base (MOB 1) as those details become available for the analysis.

How many people are expected to arrive at each base and when?

The EIS will provide information on the proposed number of personnel and associated impacts as that information becomes available for the analysis.

When do you expect the Environmental Impact Statement to be complete and final decisions made?

At this time, we expect the draft EIS to be available for public review in spring 2022 and the Final EIS to be available in spring 2023.

Where can I receive additional information or stay informed on the progress of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

The website will provide information on the project, including dates and locations of public meetings, a method for providing comments to the Air Force, and the EIS documents as they become available. The Air Force will also publish a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register announcing the intention to prepare a draft EIS and a final EIS and notifying the public of upcoming scoping meetings and the dates of the public scoping period. The project website address will be provided in that Federal Register notice.

What is the Air Force doing to keep the costs of the GBSD program down and on schedule?

The Air Force is pursuing an acquisition approach that incentivizes industry, utilizes mature, low-risk technologies, maintains stable requirements, embraces model-based systems engineering and ensures ownership of the technical baseline upon completion.

Deployed nuclear weapons have been reduced significantly in recent years. Why is there a requirement for additional investment?

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review confirmed nuclear weapons remain a critical contributor in deterring evolving adversarial threats to the national security of the U.S. and our allies. The United States is committed to maintaining a robust, flexible, tailorable, and responsive nuclear deterrent. However, in order to meet current and changing global threats, additional investment is required. The fact that the total number of deployed nuclear weapons has been reduced makes it increasingly important the remaining operational deployed inventory be modernized to ensure it continues to provide a safe, secure, and effective deterrent.

Of all legs of the nuclear triad, why spend money on the least flexible option?

A ground-based missile force has unique characteristics that make it particularly attractive now and in the uncertain strategic security environment of the future. ICBMs feature low operating costs and high availability, while providing the only rapid-response capability in the nuclear triad. They also enable the other legs of the triad to operate in a more flexible role at lower alert postures. The ICBMs operate with extremely secure command and control. There is no ambiguity if we are attacked—any large-scale attack directed against the ICBM force will be quickly detected, and a flexible, global response can be initiated.

Why do we need so many ICBMs? Couldn’t we achieve the same level of deterrence, and save money, by decreasing the size of the fleet?

Day-to-day ICBM operations provide the majority of U.S. “alert” nuclear weapons. The ICBM force is, and will be, widely dispersed in up to 450 hardened silos, providing a steadfast and enduring deterrent to any adversary. This formidable missile force assures U.S. allies and serves as the most stabilizing leg of the triad. It presents an insurmountable challenge to aspiring developers of ballistic missile capabilities, thus dissuading nations from pursuing a new nuclear arms race or, more importantly, ever contemplating the use of nuclear weapons.

Why do we need to modernize the ICBM force now?

As long as there are countries that possess nuclear weapons, and are using current technologies to make capability improvements to their weapon systems, we must maintain a reliable, effective ground-based leg of the nuclear triad. The Minuteman III weapon system (including the missile, command and control network, ground equipment, and physical infrastructure) must be replaced and modernized to meet warfighter requirements and to resolve capability, attrition and age issues.

When will the system be fielded?

Deployment is projected to begin in the mid 2020s and should be completed by the mid 2030s. This timeline addresses U.S. Strategic Command’s need for improved performance, as well as the most critical age-out concerns, while the Air Force balances this need with the immediate and ongoing requirement to maintain affordability.

If the Minuteman III is aging out, why will it take so long to bring the GBSD online?

Given the gravity and importance of nuclear deterrence, the Air Force cannot afford to rush this effort. The end-to-end, integrated weapon system, nuclear hardness, and surety requirements, required infrastructure upgrades/improvements, and identifying industry partners certified to build nuclear components will take time. The Air Force is following a thorough process to ensure the deployment of a safe, secure, reliable, and effective weapon system. The Air Force does not currently plan to pursue additional service life extension programs for the Minuteman III beyond the current one.

Does the GBSD program also include upgrades or modernization of the infrastructure or the silos? If not, will those facilities be upgraded later or under a different contract?

The Minuteman III uses the foundation of the Minuteman I, which was designed in the late 1950s and deployed in the early 1960s. The physical infrastructure has been maintained for the past 50 years through extraordinary efforts, but due to the age and deterioration of earth- buried facilities, there is an inherent risk associated with continued use in their current state. Therefore, the launch facilities and launch control centers, along with the command-and-control functions, will undergo an extensive restoration and modernization effort as part of the overall GBSD program. The purpose of this effort is to enable these facilities to remain safe, reliable and effective throughout the life of GBSD, until at least 2075.

What is the order in which the replacement will occur?

Deployment is scheduled to begin in the late 2020s. GBSD will deploy in the existing, but restored and modernized, Minuteman III launch facilities at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota.

How much will this program really cost?

Any questions about the GBSD estimate should be referred to the Secretary of Defense’s Public Affairs office.

Did the Air Force ever consider or cost-out how much another life extension program on the Minuteman III (namely another guidance and rocket motor refresh) would cost to give the missile an additional 10-15 years of service life?

The Air Force considered the cost to extend the service life of Minuteman III in the 2014 GBSD analysis of alternatives. Based on the analysis, a replacement ICBM system is similar in cost to a Minuteman III life extension program over the fiscal year 2016-2075 timeframe, but GBSD will provide a system that meets future requirements and lowers sustainment costs over its own lifecycle. The Air Force does not currently plan to pursue additional service life extension programs for the Minuteman III beyond the current one.

What kinds of next-generation capabilities will GBSD have compared to the capabilities of current ICBMs?

GBSD will exploit existing, affordable technologies. Since Minuteman III was developed in the mid-1960s, many advances have been made in missile propulsion, guidance precision instruments, safety, security, nuclear surety, and nuclear command, control, and communications. The GBSD weapon system will use technology and hardware solutions that increase accuracy, extend range, and enhance security, while delivering modular open system architectures and improved reliability and maintainability to ensure the GBSD system is responsive to the emerging threat environment and will provide the United States with an upgraded and broader array of options to address unforeseen contingencies.

What is the plan for flight-testing any new system?

A preliminary test plan has been approved in concert with the acquisition strategy and will ensure safe and effective fielding of the GBSD weapon system. The flight testing will be conducted from Vandenberg AFB, California, and is similar to the flight test program we use today on the Minuteman III weapon system. The plan will test all facets of the GBSD weapon system, but will not include detonation testing of nuclear warheads. Air Force Materiel Command’s Air Force Test Center delegated developmental testing responsibility to its Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

Why are we creating new nuclear weapons after the Cold War is over, while criticizing other countries’ nuclear activities?

The Air Force is not creating new nuclear weapons; instead, we are replacing aging delivery systems that currently carry nuclear weapons and modernizing the associated systems used to launch the missiles. The United States has substantially reduced its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War and, as a matter of policy, seeks the lowest number of nuclear forces consistent with our national security strategy. The GBSD weapon system preserves and enhances such a nuclear deterrent capability adapted for an uncertain future security environment. This stance is fully consistent with our strong opposition to the global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Will the GBSD program result in new nuclear warhead development? In resumed testing?

This program will be compatible with current nuclear warheads. Proposed modifications by the Department of Energy will improve safety, security, and reliability of the warhead. The program will not require nuclear testing.

Why does the EIS address the support locations at Hill AFB, UT; the Utah Test and Training Range; and Camp Guernsey, WY?

These support locations execute development and system testing for the Minuteman III and are projected to provide support for GBSD. They will require refurbishment to infrastructure and/or new facilities upon the demilitarization of the Minuteman III and emerging requirements for GBSD. More information will be known when the talking points for the Minuteman III demilitarization are released.