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Wait a Minute, Man: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to ensure that the Minuteman III ICBM force is not eliminated as one of the moves that Pentagon officials might feel compelled to make to deal with potential budget cuts up to $100 billion annually over the next 10 years. Conrad wrote Panetta after Panetta told lawmakers earlier this month that such steep budget reductions might force DOD to "eliminate [the] ICBM leg of triad," among the many drastic actions that might be unavoidable. Getting rid of the ICBMs would provide an estimated $8 billion in savings, said Panetta. But such thinking is alarming, asserted Conrad. "It's a shock to hear the Pentagon say that the ICBM is a good place to find short-term savings," he wrote in his Nov. 18 letter to Panetta. "This total reversal of our long-held and successful nuclear deterrent strategy would create unnecessary strategic danger; moreover, it does not make fiscal sense," stated Conrad. Accordingly, "I ask that you protect the 420-missile and 450-silo ICBM force from cuts outside the arms control process, and refrain from considering our nation’s most cost-effective and stabilizing nuclear deterrent," he underscored.