As the US government tightens its fiscal belt, it is important for policymakers to consider that cutting key programs can create ripple effects far beyond US borders. A prime example is the Tomahawk missile.
The quick, quiet killing of this program has major implications for the United States, its national interest and foreign policy. Gutting a missile program as successful as Tomahawk sends a concerning message to the US’ allies and adversaries alike, and will significantly hurt the US’ interests in selling defense systems abroad.
The US has possessed a key comparative advantage with its ability to protect its national interest around the world by projecting its military power and in turn keeping its enemies at an arm’s length. This projected power comes from the US’ possession of vital weapons such as B-52 aircraft carriers, Aegis ships, the Tomahawk cruise missile, and several key military installations around the world.
In deterring enemies, the Tomahawk missile has proven to be first-rate. Tomahawk has the ability to suppress enemy air defense systems without putting service personal in harm’s way—in an inexpensive and highly efficient manner. It also allows for the precise and accurate targeting of individual marks, providing the US an industrial scale capability that no other nation posses and that no other nation can counter.
Discontinuing the Tomahawk means the Pentagon will have to restrict their mission decision making to the number of missiles left in the US arsenal, severely limiting the US’ capacity to act in any future conflict.
Ending the Tomahawk program will not just have tactical implications for warfighters, but will also impact this US’s interests abroad, specifically in terms of its relationships with its allies and partners. Both The United Kingdom and Australia envisage the use of the Tomahawk cruise missile as part of their future defense strategy. Further, the UK has spent considerable amounts of money configuring its weapons platforms to be able to fire Tomahawk. Yet, when the British defense secretary recently visited Washington DC, he was roundly embarrassed by not being informed of the US’ decision to end the program and was thus unable to answer the most basic of questions about a replacement for Tomahawk.