March 23, 2023
By Jim Garamone , DOD News
Austin Asks Congress to Support Defense Budget Request
The fiscal 2024 defense budget request of $842 billion is needed to deter and counter the threats of today and the threats that may arise in the future, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee today.
Austin testified alongside Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael J. McCord, undersecretary of defense (comptroller)/chief financial officer. All emphasized the budget request is tied to strategy and driven by the seriousness of strategic competition with China.
The fiscal 2024 request is 3.2 percent higher than last year's actual budget and 13.4 percent higher than the request in fiscal 2022.
"I have three key priorities at the Pentagon: to defend our nation, to take care of our outstanding people and to succeed through teamwork," Austin told the subcommittee. "[China] is our pacing challenge, and we're driving hard to meet it. Our budget builds on our previous investments to deter aggression by increasing our edge."
The budget calls for a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific and increasing the scale and scope of exercises with U.S. partners. "This budget includes a 40 percent increase over last year's for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to an all-time high of $9.1 billion," the secretary said. "That will fund a stronger force posture, better defenses for Hawaii and Guam, and deeper cooperation with our allies and partners."
The budget looks to the future with the largest-ever investments in research and development and procurement. This includes $61 billion to sustain U.S. air dominance, including funding for fighters and the B-21 Raider strategic bomber unveiled in December.
The request also asks for $48 billion for sea power, including funds to build nine battle force ships, two Virginia-class attack submarines and one Columbia-class, ballistic-missile submarine.
"We're also requesting $11 billion to deliver the mix of long-range fires that our security demands — including major investments in hypersonics," Austin said. "We'll also continue to modernize all three legs of our nuclear triad and bolster our strategic deterrence."
The request of $33.3 billion is also the largest space budget in Pentagon history. This money will go to improving capabilities, resilience and command and control in space, he said.
DOD is requesting more multiyear procurement authorities and appropriations for critical munitions, which sends a consistent demand signal to industry. "We're asking for more than $30 billion to further invest in the industrial base and to buy the maximum number of munitions that American industry can produce," Austin said. "This budget also moves us away from aging capabilities that aren't relevant to future conflicts so we can focus on the advances that warfighters will need going forward."
Austin also addressed the "acute threat" of Russia.
The defense secretary said the United States has rallied the world to help Ukraine fight Russia's unprovoked and indefensible invasion. "Our allies and partners have stepped up to provide crucial security assistance, coordinated through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that I lead," he said. "And we will support Ukraine's defense for as long as it takes."
DOD also remains alert to threats emanating from Iran, North Korea and from violent extremist organizations, he said. "This budget also invests in improving our readiness and resilience in the face of climate change and other 21st century threats that don't care about borders," Austin said.
The U.S. military is strong because of its people, the secretary said. "As we mark the 50th anniversary of our all-volunteer force, I'm enormously proud of the brave men and women who choose to wear the cloth of our nation," he said. "We owe it to them and to their families to take the best possible care of all our people."
He noted that since 2021, DOD has made moves easier, cut commissary prices, made child care more affordable, and expanded job opportunities for military spouses. "This budget funds other key steps to increase the quality of life of our teammates — including the largest military and civilian pay raises in decades," he said.
He told the representatives that DOD is pushing hard to eliminate suicide in the ranks, including immediate steps to hire more mental health professionals and improve access to mental health care.
Eliminating sexual assault and harassment is another area of concern. "We've worked with Congress to improve the response to sexual assault and related crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," he said. "Those reforms will be fully implemented by the end of this year. And the department is also investing in a specialized workforce to combat sexual assault, harassment, suicide and more. And on many installations, we're conducting on-site evaluations that tell us what's working and where more support is urgently needed."
Allies and partners are another priority for DOD, he said. "Our network of allies and partners magnifies our power and expands our security, and no other country on Earth has anything like it," he said.
He cited major steps forward in the Indo-Pacific as examples. "The Philippines has agreed to nearly double the number of sites where we cooperate together," he said. "Japan committed to double its defense spending. And we're going to forward-station the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment — which is one of the most advanced formations in the Corps — in Okinawa so that we can better deter conflict in the first island chain."
He also spoke of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States agreement, which he called "a generational initiative ... to build game-changing defense advantages that will deter aggression, promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, and boost our defense industrial capability."
NATO remains the most successful defensive alliance in history. "You can also see the profound power of our alliances in today's united NATO," Austin said. "Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we've further strengthened NATO's defense and deterrence on its eastern flank."
Austin asked the committee to support the budget request; he also asked the committee to provide DOD "with an on-time, full-year appropriation."
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