Over the last couple of decades, the Tomahawk cruise missile has become the Navy’s go-to standoff weapon of choice. Its range, accuracy, stealthiness and range of warheads has proven invaluable, as over 1,000 Tomahawks have been used since its combat introduction in the first Gulf War. Several ballistic missile submarines have been converted into Tomahawk cruise-missile subs carrying 154 missiles apiece, over twice the number carried by a destroyer or cruiser.
Therefore, in Barack Obama’s America, its production must end years early, with procurement dropping from 196 this year and a planned 980 through 2018 to 100 next year and nothing afterward.
The claim at the time was that the resources that would have gone to procuring the Tomahawk are going instead to developing its replacement, the Next Generation Land Attack Weapon. That’s a “slight” exaggeration – the proper verb is “will” as that program doesn’t exist yet and won’t be producing operational missiles until at least 2024.
Bryan McGrath over at Information Dissemination offers an “innocent” explanation of why the sudden shift has happened; there is only a finite amount of money out there, and there is, despite the wild claims from the Washington Free Beacon, a fair amount in reserve. I would buy it…if sequestration had first happened this past year. However, everybody has known it was the “default” since 2011.
Rather, I put far more stock in his closing statement as the reason (emphasis in the original):
I believe that the country needs to put additional energy toward deterring the war it cannot afford to fight, and that is a war with China, Russia, or China and Russia. In order to best deter such a war, it must be well-prepared to wage it. Calculations of risk that involve diminishing stocks of precision guided munitions without the industrial capacity to quickly replace them should be viewed with concern. It is not 1939. We do not have endless untapped industrial capacity that will build 50,000 airplanes and 6000 ships and boats. We have limited production lines in incredibly high-tech factories that rely on a precious supply of skilled workers who are not reproducible overnight. Any war with another major power will expend PGM’s at a rate our industrial base will strain to replace. Steady peacetime procurement of these specialized weapons not only makes the US better prepared to wage war–should it come–but it sends powerful signals of readiness and will that serve to deter war in the first place.
At some point we must recognize that the height of national strategy is NOT the pursuit of the most efficient allocation of resources. It is the advancement and sustainment of national interest. In taking on this additional near-term risk, the United States efficiently allocates resources while sending yet another message of quiescence in the face of an increasingly troubled world.
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