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November 20, 2009—The Pentagon's cadre of nuclear experts grew so shallow after the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of Strategic Air Command that the Joint Staff recently had to turn to the US Strategic Command staff at Offutt AFB, Neb., for experts to work on START (strategic arms reduction treaty) follow-on treaty negotiations.

Gen. Kevin Chilton, STRATCOM commander, speaking Thursday at AFA's Global Warfare Symposium in Beverly Hills, Calif., joked that some of the STRATCOM personnel have spent so much time at the Pentagon that they have to have their mail forwarded.

Chilton emphasized the importance of rebuilding this nuclear expertise and infrastructure, which he described as "decrepit," because each leg of the nuclear triad contributes to the backbone of strategic deterrence, and Chilton does not want to lose any of the capability.

In fact, he said, the nation needs a comprehensive stockpile strategy and to move beyond the weapons designed for Cold War threats.

Chilton noted that the Navy is already looking into the requirements for a next-generation Trident submarine, even though the first Ohio-class boat won't be retired until 2027.

The Air Force needs similar planning for its strategic bombers, cruise missiles, and ICBMs.   

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For more on the state of the Minuteman ICBM force, read Many More Minutes