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Op-Ed: Biden Signals the Retreat, US Cruise Missile Program Now Being Dismantled

President Joe Biden’s administration plans to dismantle the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program (SLCM-N) that the Trump administration developed in 2018. The Department of Defense released the recommendation in its National Defense Strategy on Oct. 27. The department claims that SLCM-N is unnecessary because the U.S. already has the “means to deter limited nuclear use.” The Biden administration presented three documents: the National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review, all detailing the military’s vision for the years ahead and reiterating that the Pentagon will have a capable nuclear arsenal. The cancellation of the sea missile program comes at a convenient time, as the U.S. Navy had requested cuts in SCLM-N funding for the 2023 fiscal budget. A member of the DOD revealed the missiles would not be ready until 2035, even with full funding. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that the U.S. nuclear inventory is in good standing without the SLCM-N program. Moreover, he believes this doesn’t weaken America’s position concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons. “I don’t think this sends any message to Putin. He understands what our capability is,” Austin said. The Trump administration’s initial plan for the program was to have nuclear-armed sea missiles to prevent Russia from making any threats. Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee in April that his position in favor of SLCM-N has not wavered and that more than one deterrence is needed. “My general view is that this president or any president deserves to have multiple options to deal with national security situations,” he said. During his 2019 Senate confirmation hearing, Milley backed the Trump administration’s nuclear strategy, saying sea-launched missiles are “necessary to enable our flexible and tailored deterrence strategy as we modernize aging nuclear forces.” Democrats in Congress have been pushing for the Biden administration to cut back on the U.S. nuclear arsenal without making cuts to the nuclear triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched weapons and aircraft bombers. The W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile is one program from the Trump administration that is still available, similar to what Russia is threatening Ukraine with. The 2020 Democratic Party platform called the W76-2 “unnecessary, wasteful, and indefensible.” The Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review changes the Trump administration’s nuclear policy by focusing on strategic instead of tactical weapons. Several national security experts have expressed grave concern over this decision. Jonathan Wolfsthal, a national security assistant to President Barack Obama and nuclear non-proliferation expert, tweeted, “The world is a dangerous place and our allies and we still rely on nuclear deterrence but this document ignores the role the US can play to make nukes less usable, less likely.” Marshall Billingslea, special presidential envoy for arms control under Trump, argued that the Biden nuclear plan is not in the best interest of the U.S. “Scrapping the nuclear tomahawk was a bad idea under [the] Obama administration, and just as bad an idea with President Biden’s efforts to kill its replacement capability,” he said. Billingslea explained that SLCM-N is easier for military leaders to use and provides a quick response time that puts Russia and China on notice. Rebecca Heinrichs, a Vandenberg Coalition advisory board member and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute with expertise in U.S. national defense policy, concurred with Bilingslea’s critique. “The fact that Biden still opposes [SLCM-N] while Russia is threatening the very thing the last administration and military officials warned about, and after his own military advisers told him to keep it, shows his ideological inflexibility is just that strong. Thankfully, there is bipartisan opposition to Biden’s cut,” she said. The DOD reiterated renewed threats from China and Russia in the Missile Defense Review, which confirms the modernization of their weapons to rival the U.S. Russia escalates its war of aggression in Ukraine, China continues its encroachment on Taiwan, and North Korea broadcasts its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, Biden continues his lousy track record on national security and puts the U.S. at a disadvantage. Biden, at odds with senior officials at the DOD, is scaling back our missile defense when we need to be ramping up our nuclear deterrence and spending more on defense. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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