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Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks' Remarks on the National Defense Strategy and Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request at the Reagan Institute (D.C.) (As Delivered)

A great thanks to Roger and the full team here at the Reagan Institute for hosting today’s event. I have had the great pleasure of working with Roger for years in the past, and attending, of course, the events out west.

And you all do really important work, and I will say, I think it’s a testament, today’s event, I hope, to our ability to continue to bridge across really challenging political divides - to have a conversation on serious topics and keep that going on across the political spectrum.  

So, thank you all for hosting me. So, I’m here to talk a little bit today about the National Defense Strategy and the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 defense budget request.  

As Secretary Austin noted when he was addressing the Reagan National Defense Forum back in December, Ronald Reagan the 40th President was someone who loved democracy and had an implacable opposition to autocracy. 

Just walking through the halls here today really reinforces that - from the many quotes and artifacts that are here in this building.  

President Biden shares those core convictions about the importance of protecting our democracy, which today faces a myriad of challenges.  

The people in Ukraine remain foremost on our minds. Russia poses an acute threat to the international system, as illustrated by its ongoing war of choice and its brutal tactics. Our National Defense Strategy fully accounts for Russia’s threats in Europe and beyond.   

But even as we confront Russia’s aggression and malign activities, the strategy is clear that China is our military’s most-consequential strategic competitor and pacing challenge.  

And our strategy also acknowledges that we face additional, persistent, regional threats; including those emanating from Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations, as well as trans-boundary challenges, like climate change, that affect our missions and operations.

In an address to the American people in 1983, President Reagan spoke about his defense budget request in this way: Budget is much more than a long list of numbers, for behind all the numbers lies America’s ability to prevent the greatest of human tragedies and preserve our free way of life in a sometimes-dangerous world.

Similarly, this Administration built our budget request in direct response to the objectives of our National Defense strategy.  

Our strategy has four priority objectives: 

First – defending the homeland – paced to the multi-domain threat that China poses today and can in the future. 

Second – deterring strategic attacks. 

Third – deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict – prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe. 

And finally – building a resilient Joint Force defense ecosystem.  

The President’s Fiscal Year 23 request of $773 billion – a roughly 8.1% increase over the ‘22 request, and 4% above the just-inked FY2022 omnibus, makes the investments we need to implement the strategy by pursuing three approaches which connect our means to our ends.   

Our first approach is integrated deterrence.  We seek to network our efforts across domains, theaters, and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the U.S. military, in close cooperation with the rest of the U.S. government and our Allies and partners, makes the folly and costs of aggression very clear.     

The combat credibility of the U.S. military to fight and win is the cornerstone of integrated deterrence.  

That is why our topline request for Fiscal Year 23 includes $276 billion for procurement and for research, development, testing, and evaluation – and that is across land, air, sea, cyber, and space – domains that must be netted together for integrated deterrence. 

Of note, across that spectrum of conflict, we also are investing $34.4 billion in recapitalizing the nuclear triad. 

Campaigning is our second approach, and it’s related. Campaigning strengthens deterrence and enable us to gain advantage against the full range of competitors’ coercive actions.  

The United States will operate forces, synchronize broader department efforts, and align department activities with other instruments of national power, to undermine acute forms of competitor coercion, complicate adversaries’ military preparations, and develop our own warfighting capabilities together with Allies and partners.

Readiness for the threats of today is central to campaigning, which is why we invest almost $135 billion in military readiness.  
And while we maintain the ability to respond across the globe, our campaigning efforts will be focused on the Indo-Pacific and Europe.  

Through the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and other regionally-focused efforts, we make investments that support our comparative military advantage and bolster our posture and logistics in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Regarding Europe, our request supports the European Deterrence Initiative, U.S. European Command, and our iron-clad commitment to NATO.  

America’s ongoing support to the people of Ukraine exemplifies these priorities in Europe. As President Biden has stated, in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are on the front lines.   

Thanks to the responsiveness of this Administration and the Unites States Congress, we’ve already delivered over $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Administration – and over $3 billion since the invasion on February 24th. That’s remarkable.

To ensure the Ukrainians continue to get the capabilities they need to defend themselves, the President has recently made a request for an additional $33 billion dollars of assistance – $16 billion of which will be for the Department of Defense.  

Earlier this week, I was in Troy, Alabama, with President Biden, visiting the Lockheed Martin facility where our Javelin missiles, which were an early game-changer in Ukraine, where they are produced.  

We were there to thank the women and men who work at that facility – for their tireless efforts in supplying the Department of Defense and our Allies and partners.

The work they do in Troy, and across our entire defense industrial base, is central to the execution of our National Defense Strategy. That’s the third approach for connecting our ends to our means – building enduring advantage.

This requires us to invest in our people, like providing the largest pay raise in 20 years to our military personnel, investing in affordable childcare, and ensuring their food and housing security. 

Building enduring advantage also means focusing intensely on innovation and modernization. And that is why we invest roughly $130 billion in RDT&E – our largest request ever.  

Finally, to combat the effects climate change on our military, we invest $3 billion to deploy new technologies, create efficiencies, and prepare our infrastructure.   

As I’ve outlined, our budget request makes the critical investments we need to defend our nation. But, our security depends on more than just dollars.  

We must out-perform and out-innovate would-be threats.  

This means making sure that at the department, we knock down barriers that stymie innovative thinking. Simultaneously, DoD faces external barriers to innovation – like delays in annual appropriations.  

Moving forward – both inside and outside the five sides of the Pentagon – we must work to find solutions to problems such as these to realize the concepts and capabilities that this century demands.

I’m going to conclude by just thanking you once again for inviting me to speak this morning.  

The Department of Defense today is ready to play its vital role in advancing President Biden’s national security objectives, as articulated in the National Defense Strategy.  

In connecting our ends, ways, and means, we have proceeded with the objectivity and rigor that our national security demands.  

As Secretary Austin has said, in doing so, we seek a 21st century that is far more secure and far less bloody than the world of the 20th. 

I look forward to the discussion.