President Biden recently introduced a preliminary version of the first defense budget of his presidency, in the form of a fifty-eight-page letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Among the goals, per the letter to letter to Leahy, is the “modernize” the nuclear deterrent.
“The discretionary request maintains a strong, credible nuclear deterrent for the security of the Nation and U.S. allies,” the letter said. “While the Administration is reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture, the discretionary request supports ongoing nuclear modernization programs while ensuring that these efforts are sustainable.”
The same letter also proposes “the recapitalization of the Nation’s strategic ballistic missile submarine fleet.”
Ahead of the release of the full budget, there’s a call for President Biden to remove the previous administration’s plans for a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.
Writing in Defense One, Monica Montgomery of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association have argued for Biden to cancel that plan. The U.S. has not deployed nuclear cruise missiles at sea since around the time of the first Gulf War.
“While a number of unnecessary and costly nuclear weapons programs should be critically reviewed by the administration, one program stands out for immediate cancellation: the Trump administration’s proposal for a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile,” the authors write.
They go on to note that Biden had opposed that missile project during the campaign, and that going ahead with the missile now will be “a redundant and dangerous multi-billion-dollar mistake.”
“The United States already deploys more than enough lower-yield nuclear options, including the air-delivered B61 gravity bomb and air-launched cruise missile, as well as the new low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead fielded by the Trump administration,” the authors say of the missile. “The Pentagon and the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration have spent billions of dollars—and are planning to spend scores of billions more—to upgrade these weapons in the years ahead to ensure that they can defeat advancing adversary defenses.”
The authors also state that the missile, even if it goes forward, won’t be deployed until the end of the decade, and that development of the missile has not really begun.
“Unless the Biden administration reverses course, the Navy is expected to request preliminary funding for the cruise missile in fiscal year 2022,” Montgomery and Rief argued. “The administration’s topline request indicated general support for ongoing nuclear modernization programs pending the outcome of a more detailed nuclear policy review, but specific funding levels for individual programs has yet to be divulged.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.