The Navy is killing its nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missile program because it would cost too much money to build the weapon, which the service says cannot be built in time anyway.

“The program was cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need,” the Navy wrote recently in a 181-page highlight book of its fiscal year 2023 budget request.

The move will save about $200 million in fiscal year 2023 and more than $2 billion over the next five years, the Navy wrote in the budget highlight book. For now, however, work on the weapon will go on until Congress produces spending bills granting the president’s request to kill the missile.

Media including the Wall Street Journal had previously reported that the Biden administration planned to cancel the sea launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N) as part of the White House’s forthcoming nuclear posture review. 

Some of these media reports framed the decision as a presidential peace offering to progressive arms control advocates who wanted Biden to significantly reduce the scope of the ongoing, 30-year, $1-trillion modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and its supporting systems — something Biden has shown no sign he will do.

SLCM-N was to be tipped with a modified version of the W80-4 warhead that the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is working on for the air-launched Long Range Standoff Weapon that Raytheon [RTX] is designing for the Air Force. The Air Force’s version of the weapon will fly aboard Boeing [BA]-made B-52H bombers before later migrating to the Northrop Grumman [NOC]-built B21 stealth bomber.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in 2022 received $10 million from Congress to continue work on the sea-launched W80-4 variant. As of Monday afternoon, the semiautonomous nuclear weapons agency had not published its detailed fiscal year 2023 budget request.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress oppose the Biden administration’s decision to cancel SLCM-N, citing among other things the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s preference to continue developing the weapon.

Democrats in Congress were on the move last year, well ahead of the still-unpublished Biden nuclear posture review, to kill SLCM-N. House appropriators initially refused to fund the weapon in 2022 while Senate appropriators wanted to condition the weapon’s fiscal year 2022 funding on a certification of need from the Pentagon.

But the 2022 omnibus budget signed into law in March provided the NNSA and the Navy with all the requested funding for SLCM-N, with no strings attached. 

That appeared momentarily to lend credence to optimism among some nuclear policy experts in Washington that the Biden administration might be warming to the idea of SLCM-N, a low-yield weapon the Trump administration suggested building as part of the 2018 nuclear posture review.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration had yet to publish its nuclear posture review as of Monday afternoon.