The head of the Navy shared his support for the Biden administration’s 2023 fiscal year defense budget, which would end a sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear 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 have said SLCM-N should be continued.
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"I believe that we should zero out the SLCM line. I believe the president has all the tools in his toolkit necessary to deter and deal with the threat,” he said.
His comments came during a hearing to review the budget request for the Navy. 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 2023 budget request of more than $813 billion for national defense, with $773 billion of it allocated for the Department of Defense, in late March. While the price tag is the largest in the history of the country, it was crafted before Russia invaded Ukraine and before inflation hit its highest rate in 40 years in the gauge favored by the Federal Reserve at the end of March.
Republican lawmakers in particular have argued that President Joe Biden did not allocate enough money for the Pentagon, given the unanticipated inflation hike.
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 to deal with national security situations,” and in written answers during his 2019 confirmation, he said that sea-launched ballistic missile warheads “are necessary to enable our flexible and tailored deterrence strategy as we modernize aging nuclear forces.”
Additionally, Adm. Chas Richard, U.S. Strategic Command’s chief, told lawmakers that he believed the ending of this program would leave “a deterrence and assurance gap," and Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. European Command, while providing testimony on Capitol Hill, told lawmakers that he agrees with Richard’s position.
“I do, congressman, and I know his words were attempting to drive home the fact that having multiple options exacerbates the challenge for the potential enemies against us,” he explained.
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin downplayed the situation during an appearance on the Hill, saying, “The marginal capability that this provides is far outweighed by the cost."
The secretary has also defended the budget proposal, saying, "Clearly, when we snapped the chalk line, when we built the budget, inflation was at a different point. But this budget gives us the capability to go after that types of things that we believe we need to support our strategy.”