The Biden Administration’s desire to cancel a new lower-yield nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile still doesn’t sit well with the leadership of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Both subcommittee Chair Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Ranking Member Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) supported a submarine launched cruise missile tipped with a nuke, called SLCM-N, at a hearing on Tuesday.

They and the panel of non-government nuclear experts who testified at the hearing agreed that such a missile, or a comparable non-strategic nuclear capability, is necessary to deter adversaries like Russia or China from detonating a lower-yield nuclear weapon in a regional conflict like the war in Ukraine.

“The strategic dilemma is that if all we have is massive retaliation that it’s not credible that we would use that in case of a tactical use in Ukraine or Southeast Asia or Northeast Asia,” King said. “SLCM-N is not funded in the current budget. It was funded for [research and development] last year. This year it’s zeroed…I’m a little puzzled why that isn’t in the budget.”

Greg Weaver, a senior associate for the Project on Nuclear Issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said SLCM-N is the best and most readily available deterrent to nuclear challenges in both Europe and the Pacific, where China is building up its own limited-use nuclear capacity.

“There are other theater nuclear options we could pursue,” Weaver said.” We could build mobile land-based systems. But when you take the full look at the set of attributes that most address the nature of our theater deterrence problem in both Europe and Asia, I believe SLCM-N is the best option we have readily available.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2024 budget request includes no funding for the version of the W80-4 warhead a SLCM-N would carry. The agency got $20 million from Congress for the weapon in the current fiscal year as part of an omnibus budget passed in December.

This story first appeared in Defense Daily affiliate publication Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.