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Options less comprehensive in scope than the Obamas Administration's current plan for extending the life of the B61 nuclear bomb will not meet the military's minimum requirements for keeping the aging weapon viable, Gen. Robert Kehler, head of US Strategic Command, told lawmakers this week. "Early on, it appeared that there might be a lower cost option," said Kehler during the Oct. 29 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces panel. However, he continued, "the farther we've gone down the road in investigating the scope of work that needs to be done . . . there is not a minimum option that is going to fulfill all the military requirements." Accordingly, Kehler said it is imperative for the nation to move ahead with the B61-12 Life Extension Program. It has an estimated cost of more than $10 billion, according to information discussed at the hearing. Otherwise, the 20-plus-years-old B61s will begin to face reliability issues that would eventually place into question the credibility of the US nuclear deterrent, said Kehler. Under current schedules, which factor the impact of budget sequestration, the first B61-12 LEP unit is slated for completion in March 2020. (Kehler's prepared remarks)