ACTION ALERT: Say No to Sub-Launched Nuclear Missiles
Council for a Livable World
(June 28, 2021) — The United States does not need a new nuclear sea launched cruise missile (SLCM-N).
Spending $15 million on this system now, before the Biden administration has even started its Nuclear Posture Review and when the Navy may cancel the program next year is wasteful, destabilizing, and just another example of a broken defense acquisition process.
These weapons are relics of a Cold War nuclear warfighting plan to use nuclear weapons not as a strategic deterrent, but to augment conventional forces in battlefield roles. This concept did not make sense then and makes even less sense now. In fact, it flies in the face of the joint statement issued by Presidents Biden and Putin this summer, when they echoed the words of Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Three decades have passed since the United States last deployed nuclear cruise missiles at sea. President George H.W. Bush directed the nuclear Tomahawk Land Attack Missile to be taken off patrol in 1991 at the end of the Cold War.
Prior to the Trump administration, two Democratic and two Republican administrations had agreed that we no longer needed to deploy nuclear armed cruise missiles on conventional Navy ships, deeming them redundant, destabilizing, and detracting from higher priority conventional missions. President Biden himself called this weapon in 2019 a “bad idea” and he replied to a 2020 Council for a Livable World questionnaire saying that the United States did not need new nuclear weapons. The 2020 Democratic Platform said that “the Trump Administration’s proposal to build new nuclear weapons is unnecessary, wasteful, and indefensible.”
Yet, there is currently $15.2 million requested in the fiscal year 2022 budget to begin development of this Trump-era weapon, including $5.2 million in Navy funding for the missile itself and $10 million in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) funding for the W80-4 warhead alteration for the SLCM-N. This money is a waste of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
This summer, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker directed the service to plan to defund the system in fiscal year 2023 and there have been other reports that the Navy is not happy with the proposal, privately telling lawmakers that “the introduction of nuclear cruise missiles to the fleet would present both budgetary and logistical headaches for the service.”
Such burdens could include returning nuclear weapons to states and bases that haven’t housed them in 30 years, retraining and certification of attack submarine or destroyer crews to maintain and secure nuclear weapons, or adding unnecessary time to deployments to have ships travel to nuclear storage facilities to be armed with non-mission critical munitions. This could also cause significant problems for our allies in the Pacific, who will not allow vessels armed with nuclear weapons to visit their ports or train with their units.
Furthermore, when it comes to deterring China, Pentagon officials have repeatedly made clear that the greatest threat posed in the Indo-Pacific region is the erosion of conventional — not strategic — deterrence. Adding a nuclear cruise missile to platforms that regularly deploy conventional cruise missiles will not only lower the amount of conventional weapons each boat can deploy, but also increase the chance of nuclear escalation into a nuclear one as both conventional and nuclear cruise missiles share an essentially indistinguishable radar signature.
Again, we believe that spending anything on this system, before the Biden administration has even started its Nuclear Posture Review and when the Navy may well cancel the program next year, is wasteful, dangerous and contrary to our national interest.
Cutting this program’s funding now would be good for the nation, our national security and prevent a major waste of taxpayer dollars.
ACTION: Sign on here.