President Barack Obama is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades.
The Tomahawk missile program—known as “the world’s most advanced cruise missile”—is set to be cut by $128 million under Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and completely eliminated by fiscal year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.
In addition to the monetary cuts to the program, the number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States would drop significantly—from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016.
The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015, according to Obama’s proposal.
The proposed elimination of these missile programs came as a shock to lawmakers and military experts, who warned ending cutting these missiles would significantly erode America’s ability to deter enemy forces.
“The administration’s proposed budget dramatically under-resources our investments in munitions and leaves the Defense Department with dangerous gaps in key areas, like Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles,” said Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), a member of House Armed Services Committee.
“Increasing our investment in munitions and retaining our technological edge in research and development should be a key component of any serious defense strategy,” he said.
The U.S. Navy relied heavily on them during the 2011 military incursion into Libya, where some 220 Tomahawks were used during the fight.
Nearly 100 of these missiles are used each year on average, meaning that the sharp cuts will cause the Tomahawk stock to be completely depleted by around 2018. This is particularly concerning to defense experts because the Pentagon does not have a replacement missile ready to take the Tomahawk’s place.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Seth Cropsey, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. “This really moves the U.S. away from a position of influence and military dominance.”
Cropsey said that if someone were trying to “reduce the U.S. ability to shape events” in the world, “they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the U.S. fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”