The administration of President Joe Biden has decided to terminate a military program started under his predecessor, President Donald Trump, for developing sea-launched nuclear cruise missiles.
Biden’s Defense Department decided in favor of scrapping the program even though some of its most senior officials opposed it, Newsmax reported.
The Trump administration started the sea-launched nuclear missile development in 2018.
Its termination was revealed this week in the newly published 2022 National Defense Strategy described as a “sweeping new strategy” for crafting “better military deterrence” against the threats from China and Russia.
When the Trump administration set out to develop the new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM-N), it designed it in response to the Russian threat.
According to the Biden administration, however, the SLCM-N is “no longer necessary” because the US military possesses other “means to deter limited nuclear use.”
The termination of the SLCM-N program would not affect the existence of America’s strategic submarine-launched nuclear arsenal but does stop the development of a new power projection capability.
Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended the decision to kill the Trump-era program by pointing out that the United States already had a substantial nuclear military inventory and could do without the new nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile.
“We determined, as we looked at our inventory, that we did not need that capability. We have a lot of capability in our nuclear inventory,” Austin told reporters in Washington, DC.
He dismissed speculations that the administration’s decision would send the wrong message to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The latter keeps threatening America and the West with Moscow’s nukes as his military suffers mind-blowing losses in its invasion of Ukraine.
“[Putin] understands what our capability is, and … we’ll continue to move forward,” Austin declared.
Earlier this year, the US Navy’s 2023 budget request had called for the ending of the new SLCM-N program, arguing that it was “cost prohibitive” and the missile in question would arrive “late to need.”
A senior defense official told reporters that even when fully funded, the program would have yielded the fully developed new missiles no earlier than 2035.
Regardless of those arguments, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had thrown his full weight behind developing this and other low-yield nuclear weapons.
“My position on SLCM-N has not changed. My general view is that this president or any president deserves to have multiple options to deal with national security situations,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee in April.
The US Congress could still reverse the Biden administration’s decision to cancel the new missile.
President Joe Biden's administration is attempting to end the military development of some sea-launched nuclear missiles first ordered under former President Donald Trump. https://t.co/pWjh79iCF1
— Newsmax (@newsmax) October 27, 2022