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Opening Testimony by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Before the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on a Review of the President's Fiscal Year 24 Budget Request: Investing in U.S. Security, Competitiveness and the Path Ahead for the U.S.-China Relationship (As Delivered)

Chair Murray, Vice Chairman Collins, members of the committee: thanks for the opportunity to testify about America's strategic competition with the People's Republic of China. 

I'm glad to be joined by Secretary Blinken and Secretary Raimondo. We rely on each other every day—because to compete and succeed, we must use all the tools of American power.  

And I'm grateful to Congress for recognizing the urgency of the China challenge and taking bipartisan action to meet it. 

I'd like to underscore five key points today about how the Department of Defense is tackling the security challenge of the PRC—in lockstep with our partners across the administration, around the world, and here in Congress.  

First, we're focusing the entire Department on continuing to out-pace the PRC.

As the President's National Security Strategy notes, the PRC is our only competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international system to suit its autocratic preferences. 

Beijing has increased its bullying and provocations in the Indo-Pacific. It's embarked upon a historic military buildup, including in space and cyberspace. 

Of course, war is neither imminent nor inevitable. But we must face up to the PRC's growing assertiveness.

The Department's mission is clear: to deter aggression that threatens our vital national interests. So we're investing more than ever in a formidable, innovative fighting force and a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific. 

Our budget includes a 40 percent increase over last year's request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative—to an all-time high of $9.1 billion. 

We're delivering critical capabilities through more agile approaches to testing and acquisition. And we're developing novel operational concepts for how we employ the Joint Force. 

Our National Defense Strategy calls the PRC our pacing challenge. And we chose the word "challenge" carefully. The United States does not seek confrontation, conflict, or a new Cold War. But America has never shied away from competition, and we're working with both our rivals and our friends to strengthen the guardrails against conflict.

To prevail in strategic competition, we must work together as one team. That's my second point. And that demands even closer cooperation with our colleagues at the Departments of State, Commerce, and elsewhere. 

We work with the Department of State to help prevent conflicts from breaking out in the first place. We protect the free and open trade lanes that drive the world economy. 
We're supporting the Department of Commerce's leading role in implementing the CHIPS and Science Act. And we work closely with Commerce to advance our technological advantages.

Third, we're determined to keep the Indo-Pacific free and open. Most countries in the region share a common vision of an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific free of bullying and coercion. We're proud to stand together with them. 

So we'll continue to strengthen the rules-based international order by making clear the folly of aggression and maintaining open lines of communication.

Fourth, the whole administration is working to deepen ties with our network of alliances. We're working with our friends around the Indo-Pacific and the world through security cooperation and assistance, and through combined operations and exercises. We're also working to develop innovative new capabilities and deepen integrated deterrence.

In recent months, that strategy has produced historic results.  

In Japan, we're forward-deploying more resilient and mobile assets. That includes our plans to deploy the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment.

We're pursuing major new force-posture initiatives with Australia. And through the historic AUKUS partnership, we'll work with our Australian and British allies to help forge a more stable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific for generations. 

With our Philippine allies, we will have rotational access to four new locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. 

And meanwhile, we're expanding our security cooperation with South Korea, India, Thailand, Singapore, and many others.  

We're deepening our ties with ASEAN and the Quad. 

And I'm pleased that the United States will soon provide significant additional security assistance to Taiwan through the Presidential Drawdown Authority that Congress authorized last year. This is part of our longstanding commitment to upholding our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act and other U.S. policy—and to doing our part to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

So we need to remain a reliable partner, and that brings me to my final point. 

The best way that Congress can ensure our strategic advantage is with an on-time appropriation that supports the President's budget request. 

No amount of money can buy back the time that we lose when we're forced to operate under continuing resolutions. 

And reducing funding to FY 22 levels across the government would hamstring our ability to compete—even if the Defense Department is exempted from cuts. 

We succeed as a team, and the Department of Defense succeeds when our interagency partners succeed. 

We're not just shaping our military but America's entire strategy to compete and lead. 

And I look forward to working with all of you to continue that proud tradition of U.S. global leadership. 

Thank you, Madam Chair.