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Viability of US sea-launched cruise missile programme questioned

The nuclear weapon programme that could face the greatest risk from Congressional concerns is the submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) plan proposed in the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, according to Amy Woolf, the nuclear weapons policy specialist for the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Speaking on 4 March at a virtual panel on strategic nuclear modernisation for the Brookings Institution, Woolf noted there is already a US “box” of current and secure strategic nuclear programmes that are likely to be strongly protected during upcoming budget battles and policy debates.

Referring to the SLCM programme, she said, “That’s not even in the box. The navy has not put in any money into the programme, except for a little study money. They have not come to [Capitol] Hill to explain the programme and advocate for it.”

She noted there’s proposed legislation that could kill the programme, and it has greater vulnerability to be potentially cut, when compared to other programmes that are “solidly” in the box of weapons and systems that appear to be better protected against Congressional concern.

When the SLCM idea was put forward in the Nuclear Posture Review, the navy and the administration indicated that the weapon could be something for the fleet within “seven to 10 years”, without expressing any certainty about the use or need for the missile, she said.

“The Nuclear Posture Review argument for it was somewhat muddled,” she said.

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