The United States must remain the most powerful nation on Earth if peace is to continue between the U.S., China and Russia, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, who testified today about the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2024 budget request at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
For the first time, the United States is facing two major nuclear powers, whose vital national security interests are in competition with the U.S. Both China and Russia have the means to threaten U.S. national security, he said. "But war with either is neither inevitable nor imminent."
Fighting a war with Russia and China simultaneously would be very difficult, he added.
A high state of readiness and modernization will deter aggression, and the fiscal year 2024 budget request of $842 billion will ensure that the joint force remains the most lethal and capable military in the world, he said.
"There is nothing more expensive than fighting a war. And preparing for war is also very expensive, but fighting a war is the most expensive. Preparing for war will deter that war," he said.
Milley outlined global security efforts by the United States and its allies and partners.
Security assistance for Ukraine should continue, as it is in the interest of national security, he said.
Iran, he said, has taken actions to improve its capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon, he said.
"From the time of an Iranian decision, Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks. And it would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon," Milley said.
"The United States military has developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon," he said.
The United States remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon, the chairman said.
North Korea's continued ballistic missile testing and nuclear weapons development pose threats to the U.S. homeland and allies and partners, he said.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Republic of Korea to continue to deter North Korea aggression," he said.
In addition to South Korea, bilateral alliances with other countries — such as Japan, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines, along with partner nations — provides increased security in the region in the face of aggressive behavior from China.
Milley noted that there are nearly 250,000 troops deployed in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America, combating terrorism and working with allies and partners.
"Operational readiness rates are higher now than they've been in many years. Currently, 60% of our active force is at the highest state of readiness and could deploy to combat in less than 30 days, well exceeding the minimum of the one-third standard that we've always had. Ten percent of our force could deploy in less than 96 hours. The United States military is ready," he said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III also testified, emphasizing the importance of passing this "strategy-driven budget" in a timely manner.
Besides readiness and modernization, the requested budget will take care of service members and their families, he said.
"The single most effective way that this committee can support the department and our outstanding troops is with an on-time, full-year appropriation," Austin said.