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Opening Testimony by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Before the House Appropriations Committee Budget Posture Hearing (As Delivered)

Chair Granger, Chairman Calvert, Ranking Member McCollum, distinguished members of the committee: I'm glad to be with you to testify in support of the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2024. 

I'm joined, as always, by General Milley. And I remain grateful for his leadership. And I'm also glad to be joined by the Department's Comptroller and CFO, Mike McCord. 

This is a budget aimed squarely at keeping America secure in the world of the 21st century. At $842 billion, it's a 3.2 percent increase over Fiscal Year 23 enacted and and it is 13.4 percent higher than Fiscal Year 22 enacted. 

This is a strategy-driven budget—and one driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People's Republic of China. This budget will help us continue to implement our 2022 National Defense Strategy and the President's National Security Strategy.

Now, I have three key priorities at the Pentagon: to defend our nation, to take care of our outstanding people, and to succeed through teamwork. 

And the PRC 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. 

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. And this budget includes a 40 percent increase over last year's for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative—it's an all-time high of $9.1 billion. That will fund a stronger force posture, better defenses for Hawaii and Guam, and deeper cooperation with our allies and partners. 

Now, this budget also makes the Department's largest-ever investments in both R&D and procurement.

We're requesting more than $61 billion to sustain our air dominance. That includes funding for fighters and the extraordinary B-21 strategic bomber that I helped unveil last December. 

We're also seeking more than $48 billion in sea power, including new construction of nine battle force ships. And we're boosting capacity at America's shipyards to build the ships that our strategy demands. We're investing a total of $1.2 billion in the submarine industrial base. And we're buying two Virginia-class attack submarines and one Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine. 

On land, we're investing in air and missile defense. And we're investing in defenses to counter unmanned aerial vehicles. 

We're also requesting $11 billion to deliver the mix of long-range fires that our security demands—including major investments in hypersonics. 

We'll also continue to modernize all three legs of our nuclear triad and bolster our strategic deterrence. 

And we've put forward the largest space budget in Pentagon history. We've requested $33.3 billion to improve our capabilities, our resilience, and our command and control in space. 

Now, let me again thank Congress for providing the Department with multi-year procurement authorities and appropriations for critical munitions. This helps us send a consistent demand signal to industry. In this budget, we're requesting more multi-year procurement authority. 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. 

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. 

Now, our National Defense Strategy calls out Putin's highly aggressive Russia as an "acute threat." 

Under President Biden's leadership, 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. 

And we will support Ukraine's defense for as long as it takes. 

Meanwhile, the Department remains vigilant against other persistent threats, including Iran, North Korea, and global terrorist groups. And we're investing in over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities as well. 

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. 

Mr. Chairman, we're going to remain the strongest military in the world. And that's because we have the best team in the world. 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. And we owe it to them and to their families to take the best possible care of all our people. 

Over the past two years, we've made moves easier, we've cut commissary prices, we've made childcare more affordable, and expanded job opportunities for military spouses. And 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.

Now, we're also pushing hard to help eliminate suicide in our ranks, including immediate steps to hire more mental-health professionals and improve access to mental-health care. 

Meanwhile, we're working toward a military that's free of sexual assault. We worked with Congress to improve the response to sexual assault and related crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 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.

Now, the Department's third priority is succeeding through teamwork. Our network of allies and partners magnifies our power and expands our security. And no other country on Earth has anything like it.  

Over the past few months in the Indo-Pacific, our friends have taken major steps forward. 

The Philippines has agreed to nearly double the number of sites where we cooperate together. 

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.

We've also made history with the AUKUS partnership. It's a generational initiative with our Australian and British allies to build game-changing defense advantages that will deter aggression, promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, and boost our defense industrial capability. 

You can also see the profound power of our alliances in today's united NATO. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we've further strengthened NATO's defense and deterrence on its eastern flank. 

And congressional leadership on the European Deterrence Initiative—and our investments since 2014—helped us react quickly and boldly to Russia's cruel war of choice and made our deterrence even stronger.

In sum, Mr. Chairman, this is the budget that will meet this moment. And I'd respectfully ask for your support. 

The single most effective way that this committee can support the Department and our outstanding troops is with an on-time, full-year appropriation. So I look forward to working with everyone so that we can continue to defend our democracy and support the forces of freedom in this hour of challenge. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.