Navy chief backs Biden’s defense budget shelving Trump-era nuke

The Navy chief shared his support for the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 defense budget, which would end a sea-launched cruise missile development program.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he disagreed with a handful of other defense officials who said the SLCM-N should be for follow-up.

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“I think we should zero out the SLCM line. I think the president has all the tools in his toolbox to deter and deal with the threat,” he said.

His comments came during a hearing to consider the Navy’s budget request. Del Toro, Adm. Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, and Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified together.

The Biden administration submitted its fiscal year 2023 budget request for more than $813 billion for national defense, including $773 billion allocated to the Department of Defense, in late March. While the price is the highest in the country’s history, it was designed before Russia invaded Ukraine and before inflation hit its highest rate in 40 years in the favored gauge by the Federal Reserve at the end of March.

Republican lawmakers in particular have argued that President Joe Biden has not allocated enough money to the Pentagon, given the unexpected rise in inflation.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee in early April, “This president or any president deserves to have multiple options for dealing with national security situations,” and in written responses when confirmed in 2019, he said sea-launched ballistic missile warheads “are necessary to enable our flexible and responsive deterrence strategy as we modernize aging nuclear forces.”

Additionally, Admiral Chas Richard, head of US Strategic Command, told lawmakers he believed ending that program would leave “a vacuum of deterrence and assurance”, and General Tod Wolters, the commander of the U.S. European Command, while testifying on Capitol Hill, told lawmakers he agreed with Richard’s position.

“Yes, Congressman, and I know his words were trying to convey that having multiple options heightens the challenge for potential enemies against us,” he explained.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin played down the situation during an appearance on the Hill, saying: “The marginal capability this provides is far outweighed by the cost.”

The secretary also defended the budget proposal saying, “Clearly when we broke the chalk line, when we built the budget, inflation was at a different point. But this budget gives us the ability to continue that kind of things that we think we need to support our strategy.

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