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Legislators object to Navy plan to end nuclear cruise missile program

Legislators on Tuesday objected to a proposal by the acting Secretary of the Navy to cancel development of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, which could be carried by submarines or surface vessels like the USS Barry, pictured. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy
Legislators on Tuesday objected to a proposal by the acting Secretary of the Navy to cancel development of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, which could be carried by submarines or surface vessels like the USS Barry, pictured. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/U.S. Navy

June 16 (UPI) -- The House Armed Services Committee was critical of plans to defund development of nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles, as noted last week by the acting Navy Secretary.

One part of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker's three-page, June 4 memo regarding 2023 program objectives said that "the Navy cannot afford to own, operate and maintain its current infrastructure and must prioritize demolition to achieve long-term sustainment," adding "defund [the] sea-launched cruise missile."

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Committee legislators at Tuesday's hearing on the Navy budget were quick to object to Harker's plan.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., asked why the cruise missile program, determined to be necessary to defeat near-peer enemies like China and Russia, could be eliminated by a single line in a memo.

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"Do you realize the extent to which you have undermined President Biden and the United States in indicating that a weapons system that is nuclear is going to be unilaterally defunded without any negotiations or without receiving any concessions from Russia?" Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, asked Harker during the hearing.

Harker appeared at the hearing with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.

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Harker responded by noting that the proposed cancellation of the program was only part of "initial guidance" for the 2023 budget, and called the memo "a preliminary, internal document."

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Harker added that the administration of President Joe Biden is undertaking a review of the United States' global nuclear posture and national defense strategy.

After Turner suggested that Harker is unqualified to make decisions affecting defense policy, Harker admitted that he did not consult with anyone on before inserting the defunding of the cruise missile into the memo.

At a hearing last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mike Milley told the committee that neither had seen Harker's memo.

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