The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee recommends funding the Navy’s analysis of alternatives (AoA) for a new nuclear-armed Sea-launched Cruise Missile (SLCM-N), but has concerns and directs the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report estimating costs.

The subcommittee marked up a draft FY 2020 defense appropriations bill on May 16, making recommendations to the full committee. The Navy’s FY ‘20 budget request included $5 million to start the AoA for the new SLCM-N the administration called for in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

The Virginia-class attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The NPR specifically called on the Departments of Defense and Energy to study a low-yield, nuclear-armed, SLCM it could deploy over the long term. It also called for the “rapid development of a modern SLCM” for this mission (Defense Daily, Feb. 2, 2018).

According to a copy of the subcommittee’s markup report obtained by Defense Daily, the panel approved the request, but noted it “is concerned with the potential costs and operational impacts of this potential additive acquisition program.”

If approved, the bill directs the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report to the  congressional defense committees “that provides the estimated cost of a SLCM-N acquisition program, an estimate of the increased operational and security costs that would be imposed on the fleet by a SLCM-N, an assessment of whether possession of a SLCM-N by Navy submarines would affect access to overseas ports and facilities, and a description of the validated military requirement.”

The report would be due within 90 days of the bill’s enactment. The subcommittee’s recommendation said this report may be submitted with a classified annex, if necessary.

Last year, the Department of Energy’s annual report of its nuclear weapon programs did not say how long the AoA would take, but noted it would not create a formal SLCM program until the AoA was concluded (Defense Daily, Nov. 1, 2018).

An AoA generally compares different options to complete one mission, which in this case is building a SLCM that could be nuclear armed.