The president’s fiscal 2024 defense budget request is a strategy-driven document ensuring the U.S. military is the strongest in the world now and into the future, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee today.
The $842 billion budget request ensures the military can perform its missions today and be positioned to respond to myriad threats moving forward.
China is America’s pacing threat, and the budget request is “driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” Austin said.
The request also covers Austin’s priorities at DOD: to defend the nation, take care of the military’s people, and succeed through teamwork. “The PRC is our pacing challenge, and we’re driving hard to meet it,” he said. “Our budget builds on our previous investments to deter aggression, and we’re investing in a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific and increasing the scale and scope of our exercises with our partners.”
He noted that the budget calls for an increase in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. “It’s an all-time high of $9.1 billion that will fund a stronger force posture and better defenses for Hawaii and Guam,” he said.
The National Defense Strategy calls Russia an acute threat: a judgment certainly reinforced by President Vladimir Putin’s illegal and awful invasion of Ukraine. “Under President [Joe] Biden’s leadership, the United States has rallied the world to help Ukraine fight Russia’s indefensible invasion,” the secretary said. “We’ve reinforced NATO’s defense and deterrence on its eastern front. And our allies and partners have provided crucial security assistance, coordinated through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that I lead. And we will support Ukraine’s defense for as long as it takes.”
Top military leaders have said there are still other threats the U.S. military must contain and these include Iran, North Korea and terror groups.
Austin said the budget is also strong in future-facing investments, including the department’s largest ever investments in both research and development and procurement. “We’re requesting more than $61 billion to sustain air dominance,” he said. “That includes funding for fighters and the extraordinary B-21 strategic bomber that I helped unveil last December.”
The budget calls for more than $48 billion for sea power, including new construction of nine battle force ships. The budget strengthens U.S. shipyards and invests $1.2 billion in the submarine industrial base.
“On land, we’re investing in air and missile defense and in defenses to counter unmanned aerial vehicles,” Austin said. “We’re also requesting $11 billion to deliver the right mix of long-range fires, including major investments in hypersonics.”
DOD will also continue modernization of all three legs of the nuclear triad, he said.
Austin thanked the lawmakers for passing multiyear procurement authorities for critical munitions. “In this budget, we’re requesting more multiyear procurement authorities, and 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,” the secretary 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 our warfighters will need.”
But the beating heart of the military is not equipment or vehicles or supplies, but people, he said. “As we mark the 50th anniversary of our all-volunteer force, I am enormously proud of the brave men and women who choose to wear the cloth of our nation,” Austin said. He added that we owe it to service members and their families to take the best possible care of our people.
He noted that the military has made moving easier, cut commissary prices, and made childcare more affordable. The budget request funds the largest military and civilian pay raises in decades, Austin said.
“We’re also pushing hard to eliminate suicide in our ranks, including immediate steps to hire more mental health professionals and improve access to mental health care,” the secretary said. “Meanwhile, we’re working toward a military that’s free of sexual assault.”
DOD’s final priority is succeeding through teamwork. “Our unrivaled network of allies and partners magnifies our power and expands our security,” he said.
He noted that the Philippines agreed to “nearly double the number of sites where we cooperate together,” and Japan committed to double its defense budget. Austin also praised the Australia, United Kingdom, United States pact that will produce “game-changing defense advantages that will deter aggression and boost our defense industrial capacity.”