In an unprecedented letter to Congress, Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, urged lawmakers to approve spending on a joint agreement between the Pentagon and the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense, The Guardian reported Saturday.
Pentagon officials have confirmed that the W93 would be the next-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which security officials hope to have fully operational by 2040 — a $14 billion program that Britain has reportedly committed to joining by replacing its own Trident warheads.
“These are challenging times, but it is crucial that we demonstrate transatlantic unity and solidarity in this difficult period,” Wallace wrote to members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, according to The Guardian, which obtained a copy of the letter.
“Congressional funding in  for the W93 program will ensure that we continue to deepen the unique nuclear relationship between our two countries, enabling the United Kingdom to provide safe and assured continuous-at-sea deterrence for decades to come.”
The House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee blocked the needed funding the Trump administration was requesting in order to start the development of the new warhead design, according to Defense News.
The committee cited concerns that the National Nuclear Security Administration failed to provide adequate details on “why starting Phase 1 Concept Assessment is needed in fiscal year 2021, the drivers for this decision, or how such a decision is likely to impact retirement of any of the Navy’s existing strategic systems.”
“This is excess on top of excess,” Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association Kingston Reif told The Guardian. “We already have two SLBM warheads. The W76 just went through a major life extension program and is slated to be good into the early 2040s, and the W88 is going through a major alteration.”
The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the U.S. and Russia is set to expire in February 2021, unless both parties agree to extend the agreement. Russia has already committed to signing the treaty without stipulations, but the U.S. is now saying it will not agree to any terms unless China also signs a nuclear arms treaty — a move that Russia has called “undiplomatic,” saying they will not force China to sign any treaty.
China has categorically refused to sign any nonproliferation treaty but has agreed to a no-first-use policy — a nuclear deterrence strategy that means China won’t strike first.