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Guest opinion: Continuing our legacy of innovation

By Rep. Rosemary Lesser - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 22, 2022

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Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, represents Utah House District 10.

Utah has long supported our armed services. Our manufacturing might helped win World War II. Our pioneering spirit helped create our current national security infrastructure and space program. No doubt, Utahns are proud of what we’ve been able to contribute. I know. I’m an Air Force veteran. I’ve benefited firsthand from critical technologies developed right here in Utah. Now as a legislator, I’m working to return the favor by supporting important defense programs that will defend our nation, boost our economy, support new jobs and help the Beehive state continue to do what we do best: innovate.

Utah is currently flexing its defense innovation expertise keeping our nuclear defense up to date with the Sentinel program. The Sentinel is our country’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system that will take over as our current Minuteman III missiles are retired from service. It’s a critical component of our national security and an opportunity for our state to lead the way in modernized nuclear capabilities to meet growing, worldwide threats while reassuring allies of America’s commitment to strong, effective and shared deterrence.

The Sentinel program will bring modern missiles, command and control and launch systems. With Russia rapidly modernizing its nuclear forces and China on track to quadruple its nuclear arsenal by 2030, modernizing our current fleet of 1970s-era ICBMs that are decades past their intended lifespan is critically important.

Plus, programs like the Sentinel are slated to bring millions of dollars in investment to our state, create new jobs and attract private sector companies seeking to support the government’s manufacturing, research and development efforts. Nuclear modernization efforts will support our state’s manufacturing base, ensuring good paying jobs are here to stay. These programs mean opportunities to recruit new talent and diversify our job market. Sentinel alone is slated to create 5,000 new STEM jobs in Utah, including work on the project at Hill Air Force Base.

Fortunately, nuclear modernization isn’t a Democrat issue or a Republican issue, it’s an American issue. The effort began under the Obama administration. It continued under President Trump. And now it’s a top priority for the Biden administration, which has reaffirmed the long-standing national commitment to maintaining a capable nuclear deterrent by fully funding the modernization in the latest budget, and in the information publicly released about the administration’s official nuclear policy, known as the Nuclear Posture Review.

Today, we are in a critical moment, facing growing nuclear threats from Russia, China and others. The Sentinel program and the other components that will make up America’s modernized nuclear triad — the B-21 Raider and the Columbia class of nuclear submarines — will serve as what the Department of Defense recently referred to as “the backstop and foundation of our national defense and that of our allies” for decades to come.

In order for Utah to make good on its commitment to the Sentinel program, Congress must keep the program and its funding moving forward. I urge the Utah congressional delegation and all of our congressional leaders, as they work to finalize our national defense spending for the upcoming fiscal year, to keep in mind the historic bipartisan support for maintaining a modern, competitive and capable nuclear defense and deterrent.

Utah helped build the innovative capabilities that keep our country and allies safe, and we should be proud of the critical role we’ve played in maintaining them. Now, the best way for us to continue that is by supporting this important modernization effort. I’m confident Utahns and our leaders in the U.S. Congress will rise to the occasion.

Rosemary Lesser is the representative for Utah House District 10 and the only woman veteran in the Utah Legislature.

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