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U.S. missile force needs updating

Nuclear weapons proliferation may mean that, if anything, the United States needs a strong, flexible deterrent force. Air Force officials finally are admitting there are questions whether their missile system measures up.

One of the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal is the network of underground missile silos in five states. They hold about 450 rockets that, theoretically, can be fired quickly and accurately at any enemy.

But during the past couple of years there have been serious concerns about whether all personnel manning the silos are up to the job. For example, one big scandal disclosed widespread cheating on tests the missile operators must take periodically.

As you might expect from the federal government, the initial reaction was to throw money at the problem. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said as much as $10 billion will be spent during the next six years to improve the missile force. Fortunately, Hagel also included dozens of other changes, some including personnel, in his response to the challenge.

But Hagel is about to depart as defense secretary. It remains to be seen whether his successor will consider the missile force a top priority.

It must be just that. Again, the missiles are vital to national security.

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