Thanks to efforts led by Utah companies like Northrop Grumman, a new era of national security is on the horizon.

Utah is essential in the new era of national security

Thanks to efforts led by Utah companies like Northrop Grumman, a new era of national security is on the horizon.

For more than a century, Utah’s aerospace and defense industry has been vital to protecting our country. Home to companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and L3Harris, the state has led the way in developing innovative technologies from avionics and aircraft design to composites and ballistic missile manufacturing. These companies have also created jobs and contracts that fuel our economy. As global uncertainty abounds, continued investment and modernization in Utah will be critical to ensuring our national security and long-term economic prosperity.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration released its 2023 budget proposal, its National Defense Strategy, and a preview of the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a public policy document mandated by Congress that establishes US nuclear policy. Each of these documents signaled the Biden administration’s commitment to modernizing our nation’s nuclear forces.

The administration’s strong support for nuclear modernization guarantees that Utah’s Hill Air Force Base will play a key role in replacing our nation’s existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with the next generation of a technologically-advanced ground-based strategic deterrent. The Air Force named the new system Sentinel and claims it’s not just “a new missile but a fully integrated launch, flight, and infrastructure system with modern command and control features.” 

This is a big deal. Producing a brand-new fleet of 400 ICBMs will bring thousands of jobs to the state and could draw further manufacturing opportunities around the greater Ogden area. It also builds upon Utah’s rich history as a pioneer in nuclear deterrence and safety.

This strategic investment is long overdue, given that our existing Minuteman III fleet has been in operation since the 1970s—decades past its intended lifespan. It’s been estimated that by the end of this decade, the US will no longer be able to operate a significant portion of the ICBM fleet, and by 2036, the fleet will no longer be able to be sustained. The Sentinel’s ground-based strategic deterrence will ensure the US can maintain a credible deterrent capability for the next 50 years or more.

"Sentinel will bring jobs to Utah and, more importantly, upgrade our national security."

While the US has relied on incremental life extensions for decades, attempting to extend the life of the Minuteman III any further would be ill-advised. Sen. Mitt Romney has previously noted how Minuteman III is “very old technology and, now and then, you have to replace things that are that old…Keeping the nation safe from nuclear attack, in my opinion, is probably as high a priority as we possibly could have.”

In doing so, Sentinel will bring jobs to Utah and, more importantly, upgrade our national security. This comes at an especially important moment for our country as geopolitical adversaries are expanding their nuclear capabilities. Russia’s war in Ukraine should serve as a reminder that we cannot afford to let our guard down. 

Countering advancements from foreign adversaries has historically relied on our nation’s nuclear triad, consisting of aircraft, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based ICBMs. Each works together to provide a balanced, complementary deterrent. When one leg of the triad falls behind, the entire system is in jeopardy. Modernizing our system of ground-based strategic deterrence will keep the US triad strong for decades. 

As a business leader, it’s clear that the Sentinel program can build upon Utah’s manufacturing base and set the stage for future investment in the Beehive State. This program will bring billions of dollars into the state’s economy, and the modernization of our ground-based forces is sure to bring high-quality jobs to Utahns as our nuclear defenses are brought into the 21st century. I’m proud to see our state lead this modernization effort and commend the Biden administration for stepping up to this challenge.