Top military leaders split with Biden over nuclear cruise missile

Milley told the House Armed Services Committee that his advice to the commander-in-chief would be kept confidential, but said his views on the cruise missile, known as the SLCM-N, and low-yield nuclear weapons “n have not” changed.

“I will tell you though that as members of Congress who have oversight responsibilities, my position on SLCM-N has not changed,” Milley said. “My general opinion is that this president or any president deserves to have multiple options to deal with national security situations.”

Milley has previously backed new weapons proposed by the Trump administration’s 2018 nuclear plan. During its confirmation process in 2019, Milley argued in written responses to questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee that the cruise missile, as well as a low-yield sea-launched ballistic missile warhead, “are necessary to enable our flexible and responsive deterrence strategy as we modernize aging nuclear forces.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, played down the decision to cut the program, which was leaked by senior officials last month before the nuclear posture review was rolled out.

“The marginal capacity this provides is more than offset by the cost,” Austin said during Tuesday’s hearing. “So we had the ability to provide options to the president through a number of means.”

Austin and Milley were testifying on the Pentagon budget alongside Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord.

Milley’s comments, and those of other senior officers, will likely be fodder for defense hawks who oppose President Joe Biden’s emerging nuclear plans and already argue that the administration is not listening to the advice of its commanders on the best path forward for the nuclear arsenal. .

Although the administration is asking for billions to overhaul each leg of the nuclear triad, the budget proposed to drastically cut funding to develop the cruise missile, which is one of two new weapons the Trump administration has proposed to build. add to inventory in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The other was an under-launched low-yield ballistic missile that has already entered the fleet.

A pair of four-star officers have already supported the cruise missile. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., noted that Admiral Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, sent lawmakers a letter recommending the weapon. Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the committee last week that he agreed with Richard’s assessment in favor of the weapon.

Lamborn asked Milley if he put his advice in writing. Milley said yes, but it was classified. He added that he was satisfied that his military advice had been received.

“My advice is listened to and I have the opportunity to speak my voice continuously on several occasions,” Milley told Lamborn.

Some Democrats have pushed to defund the missile, calling it costly and destabilizing.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who chairs the Seapower subcommittee and represents a shipyard that builds submarines, defended the decision to suspend the missile. He argued that the deployment of tactical nukes on attack submarines alters the fleet’s mission “in an awkward way” and burdens the boats when low-yield nukes are already deployed. on Navy ballistic missile submarines.

“The Nuclear Posture Review predicts that low-yield missiles will be deployed on ballistic submarines,” Courtney said. “Again, the question of SLCM is really whether it’s going to be extended to attack submarines.

“This question of changing, really, the mission of attack submarines is something that is very controversial.” he added. “And I think the administration made the right choice in keeping the attack submarines focused on their primary mission.”


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