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Opening Testimony by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Hearing (As Delivered)

Chairman Tester, Vice Chair Collins, and distinguished members of the committee: I’m glad to be here 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 strategy-driven budget—and one driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China. At $842 billion, it is a 3.2 percent increase over Fiscal Year 23 enacted, and it is 13.4 percent higher than Fiscal Year 22 enacted. This budget will help us continue to implement our 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. 

The PRC is our pacing challenge. And we’re driving hard to meet it. 

Our budget builds on our previous investments to deter aggression. 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 request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and 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. 

I look forward to being back next week before the full Senate Appropriations Committee to go into more depth on how we’re working with our interagency partners to continue to out-pace the PRC.  

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 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 for 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 in defenses to counter unmanned aerial vehicles. 

We’re also requesting $11 billion to deliver the right mix of long-range fires—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 and our resilience in space. 

Now, let me again thank Congress for providing the Department with multi-year procurement authorities and appropriations for critical munitions. In this budget, we’re requesting more multi-year 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. 

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. 

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 indefensible invasion. We’ve reinforced NATO’s defense and deterrence on its eastern flank. 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. 

And meanwhile, the Department remains vigilant against other persistent threats, including North Korea and Iran. And we will take all necessary measures to defend our troops and our interests overseas, as seen from our airstrikes in March against facilities linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

And we’re also investing in over-the-horizon counterterrorism capabilities. 

Now, I know that you have been following the reports of unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified U.S. material. I take this issue very seriously. I’ve ordered a comprehensive review of the Department’s security programs, policies, and procedures for safeguarding classified information. 

I’ve also discussed this issue with our allies and partners around the world. I’ve been struck by their solidarity and their commitment to reject efforts to divide us. And we will not let anything fracture our unity.

Our Joint Force stands ready to meet any challenge. You could see the force’s readiness after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, when we swiftly deployed elements of the Third Infantry Division to Poland to shore up NATO’s eastern flank.

We closely monitor readiness at the unit level and maintain response forces at our highest states of readiness, while the rest of the force—by design—is preparing for future contingencies. So this budget will help us maintain our readiness with $146 billion in funding for operations, training, and maintenance. 

This budget also invests in improving our readiness and resilience in the face of climate change and other 21st-century threats. 

We’re going to remain the strongest military in the world. And 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. We owe it to them and to their families to take the best possible care of all of our people. 

Over the past two years, we’ve made moves easier. We’ve cut commissary prices. And we’ve made childcare more affordable. 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. And 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. 

Now, the Department’s third priority is succeeding through teamwork. Our unrivaled network of allies and partners magnifies our power and expands our security. 

And in recent months, our friends in the Indo-Pacific 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 through the historic AUKUS partnership, we’ll work with our Australian and British allies to build game-changing defense advantages that will deter aggression and boost our defense industrial capacity. 

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

And 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 you all so that we can continue to defend our democracy and support the forces of freedom in this hour of challenge. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.