Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), a reliable vote against the nuclear-modernization status quo in the House Armed Services Committee, told disarmament advocates Monday that the Biden administration should pause development of the next U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile.

It was one of two steps Garamendi said President Joe Biden should take as part of the administration’s nuclear posture review — a comprehensive plan for U.S. nuclear forces that, a Pentagon official said last week, will start “soon” and run into the fall.

In recorded remarks Monday delivered to a virtual meeting of the Washington, D.C.-based Arms Control Association, Garamendi called for “two straightforward actions we could take this year,” to reduce spending on nuclear modernization. 

“First, pause the development and deployment of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent [GBSD] and stop the deployment of the submarine launched cruise missile,” Garamendi said. Second, “aggressively pursue arms control negotiations with Russia and China.”

Garamendi said the Air Force should again extend the life of the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile fleet into the late 2030s, when, he said, a replacement missile “might be necessary.”

Last year, with the presidential election heating up, committee chair Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) set aside plans to use the annual National Defense Authorization Act to force another debate with the Senate about altering the 30-year modernization plan started by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2016 and continued by President Donald Trump with minor additions, including the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile Garamendi has in his crosshairs. 

Smith’s election-year restraint didn’t stop Garamendi from offering, then withdrawing, an amendment to kill the National Nuclear Security Administration’s planned Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility, which notionally will make the majority of the initial pits for GBSD’s planned warhead, the W87-1. In 2019, Garamendi backed a proposal to cut the budget for the W80-4 air-launched cruise-missile warhead life extension program by about $185 million. 

Smith said last week that the House Armed Services Committee probably will not mark up the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act until early September, less than a month before the start of the government’s 2022 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Biden administration was expected to release its fiscal year 2022 funding request on May 27, media reported last week.

“The nuclear buildup by Russia, China and the United States, it’s not set in stone,” Garamendi said Monday. “We must encourage and support President Biden, and his administration, as they chart a new course in their nuclear posture review.”