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Deputy Secretary Hicks and Vice Chairman Adm. Grady Hold a Press Briefing on President Biden's Fiscal 2024 Defense Budget

STAFF: Okay, hi, everyone. Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.

Today, the department is rolling out the FY2024 Defense Budget Request. Joining us today is Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Hicks and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Grady. They will each provide remarks, and then take a couple of questions.

So with that, I will turn it over to Dr. Hicks.

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE KATHLEEN HICKS: Great, good morning. Thank you, Sabrina, and thank you all for joining us today.

I am pleased to be here with the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Grady, to brief you on President Biden's Fiscal Year 2024 Defense Budget Request.

At $842 billion, this is the largest defense budget request in nominal terms that the United States has ever put forward. Thanks to relentless focus and senior leader attention over the last year, it's also the most strategy-aligned budget in history, consistent with the 2022 National Defense Strategy and the president's National Security Strategy.

Nowhere is that alignment more pronounced than in the seriousness with which this budget treats strategic competition with the People's Republic of China. This budget delivers combat-credible joint forces that are the most lethal, resilient, survivable, agile and responsive in the world. It is a force aimed at deterring, and if called upon, defeating threats today and tomorrow, even as the threats themselves advance.

Our FY24 Budget Request is a 3.2% increase over FY23 enacted and 13.4% more than FY22 enacted. In all, President Biden is increasing DOD's top line by about $100 billion over FY22 to implement the NDS with urgency and build the right mix of capabilities.

Whether for tackling the pacing challenge from the People's Republic of China, or confronting the acute threat of Russian aggression in Europe, deterring threats from Iran, North Korea and global terrorist organizations, or ensuring Joint Force effectiveness in the face of global challenges like climate change and biological threats – all of these are challenges DOD confronts every day. Our goal is to deter, because competition does not mean conflict. Still, we must have the combat credibility to win if we must fight.

So first and foremost, this budget is a procurement budget. It puts its thumb on the scale in favor of game-changing capabilities that will deliver not just in the out years, but in the near term, too. Our greatest measure of success and the one we use around here most often is to make sure the PRC leadership wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression and concludes today is not the day, and for them to think that today and every day between now and 2027, now and 2035, now and 2049, and beyond.

This budget has many areas of critical investment which our briefers will further describe, but I want to highlight several that are especially noteworthy.

The first is a series of investments to strengthen our military's so-called kill chains and disrupt adversary kill chains, making it easier for us to see, sense and shoot, and making it harder for adversaries to do that to us. These investments include a mix of munitions, platforms, communications, data links and cyber tools, among other capabilities, married with novel operational concepts for how to employ them. Together, they not only strengthen how we project power across long distances and hold key targets at risk, including in highly contested environments, they also afford us the ability to disrupt potential adversaries at the military-systems level, ensuring that in conflict, adversary forces will be less than the sum of their parts.

In munitions alone, we're investing $30.6 billion in FY24, a nearly-12% increase above FY23 enacted. Compared to the Defense Department's budget request from just five years ago, we're putting nearly 50% more money into munitions.

Almost one third of our munitions dollars are specifically for long-range fires to increase procurement and improve the capability of not only hypersonic missiles, but also our most lethal and survivable subsonic weapons, including those we've been buying at or near maximum capacity for several years. This latest budget expands production capacity even more and procures the maximum amount of munitions that are most relevant for deterring and, if necessary, prevailing over aggression in the Indo-Pacific, such as the Tomahawk cruise missile and its latest maritime strike variant, the Extended-Range Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Missile; or the JASSM-ER, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM; and the antiship-capable SM-6 missile, among others.

For several of these and more key munitions, like air-to-air missiles and heavyweight torpedoes, we're looking to make unprecedented use of new multiyear procurement flexibility provided by Congress. This will help us lock in critical investments, getting the most bang for the taxpayers' buck, send industry a clear demand signal and be even better prepared to respond quickly in future contingencies. When it comes to munitions, make no mistake: We are buying to the limits of the industrial base even as we are expanding those limits, and we're continuing to cut through red tape and accelerate timelines.

Now, to deliver those munitions from all domains, we're also investing in advanced platforms in every military department: at sea, from unproved surface and undersea vehicles, to more guided missile destroyers, Virginia-class submarines and guided missile frigates; in the air, from buying more fifth-generation tactical and bomber aircraft augmented by other planes we fly that can release long-range munitions, to ISR platforms, next-generation air dominance and new collaborative combat aircraft; and on land, from distributed Army ground-based fires, to accelerating the Marine Corps' Force Design 2030, fielding the majority of its novel capabilities and force structure in the Indo-Pacific by 2027, and in fact, some are already there.

Munitions, platforms and forces are the most visible parts of any kill chain. Less visible, but no less important, are the enabling capabilities that link them together, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and we're investing in those enablers too, with $67.4 billion for cyber, I.T. and electronic-warfare capabilities, $1.4 billion for Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to maintain our information and decision advantage. JADC2 will make us even better than we already are at joint operations and combat integration and deliver proven enhancements to the warfighter in the next four years; and $33.3 billion for resilient space architectures, capabilities and enhanced space command-and-control to keep space safe from military, civilian and commercial operations.

This the largest DOD space budget ever. It funds diverse constellations for both sensing and communications, while also leveraging America's world-leading commercial space sector.

Even as we're strengthening how we sense, see and shoot in contested environments, this budget also invests in disrupting advanced adversaries' ability to do the same. This includes more funding for missile defense and defeat systems, kinetic and non-kinetic, including capabilities to counter hypersonic weapons.

We're continuing to invest in diversified, distributed and hardened force posture, among many things we're doing to complicate adversary targeting. And we're investing in additional capabilities, which we will only unveil at a time, place and manner of our choosing.

As Secretary Austin has said, we're laser-focused on deterring aggression in the Indo-Pacific, sustaining a free and open region and doing so alongside our friends and allies. Indeed, in the last few months, we've seen great allied and partner developments there, including Tokyo's commitment to double defense spending; the announcement of a new marine littoral regiment on Okinawa; major force posture initiatives with Australia; and our agreement with the Philippines to nearly double the sites where we cooperate together.

To build on that momentum, this budget requests the department's largest Pacific deterrence initiative yet, $9.1 billion for better air basing, new missile warning and tracking architecture, construction for a more resilient force posture, homeland defense for Hawaii and Guam and more collaboration with allies and partners.

And the budget reflects how we're continuing to learn from the war in Ukraine and apply those lessons to the Indo-Pacific and other theaters.

Another pillar of this budget is its investments in the people who make our military the fiercest and finest force in the world. Taking care of our people begins with ensuring they're trained and equipped and our readiness is robust.

The same is true for retention, with every military service exceeding its goals in 2022. Retention has been outstanding partly because the secretary, the president and Congress have in recent budgets put a premium on raising military and civilian pay, improving quality of life for service members and military families and funding training, operations, maintenance and infrastructure improvements.

This budget maintains and builds on those investments with historic pay raises that help us compete for top talent, military and civilian; new funding for universal pre-K at DODEA schools worldwide; and much more, while continuing our relentless efforts to prevent suicide and end sexual harassment and sexual assault.

We can never be complacent, but this is the world's most combat-credible force. And the investments in our people, alongside our training and equipping investments, are a big reason why.

A third pillar I'll highlight is how the budget helps us succeed through teamwork, with our network of allies and partners around the world, one of America's unbeatable asymmetric advantages, and with the collective arsenal of democracy and commercial innovation that's been energized by Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Here at home the budget invests approximately $6 billion in strengthening the defense industrial base and supply chains, including long-term investments in microelectronics, casting and forging, batteries, kinetic capabilities and critical minerals.

As we remodel for the future, we're paying as much attention to the wiring and framing as we are to the finishes. Cyber, space, I.T., shipyards, munitions plants, munitions components, barracks and housing -- in all of these areas, we're funding expansions, upgrades and overhauls, none of which DOD can do alone.

The budget also continues to build bridges with America's dynamic innovation ecosystem, with the traditional defense industry and well beyond it, including funding for key technology areas like A.I., quantum sensors, and directed energy; hastening the pathway from joint concept to experimentation to fielding systems through the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve; and launching DOD's new Office of Strategic Capital to help attract and scale private capital in sectors like semiconductors, advanced materials and biotech.

Beyond our shores, the President's budget aligns with new investments by U.S. allies and partners to strengthen their own security. One example is AUKUS. As you know, today, President Biden and Secretary Austin are in San Diego meeting with the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom to announce the optimal pathway for Australia's acquisition of conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines.

Our collaboration through AUKUS, including on submarines and advanced capabilities, is a generational opportunity to strengthen our combined security, boost our defense industrial capability, enhance our ability to deter aggression, and promote our shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Closer to home, our partnership with the Legislative Branch is one of the most important and visible manifestations of how we can succeed through teamwork. We appreciate Congress' commitment to providing oversight and checking our work so we deliver maximum value for both warfighters and taxpayers.

We are also grateful as ever for Congress' bipartisan support for DOD and its people, in providing for the common defense of our country, our allies and partners, and our interests. We ask Congress to support this budget and we hope this support will include on time, full year appropriations for the U.S. government and our service members instead of defaulting to continuing resolutions.

If you add up the months DOD has been under a C.R. since 2011, it totals four years worth of delays -- delayed new program starts, delayed training, delayed PCS moves. Again, that's four years lost over the last decade-plus. To outcompete the PRC, we cannot have one hand tied behind our back for three, four, five, six months of each year. And let me assure you, more money cannot buy back this lost time.

I know members of Congress on both sides of the aisle care deeply about America's national security and winning the strategic competition for the 21st century. With this budget and with Congress' support, we're ensuring the U.S. military remains formidable and resilient, today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

With that, I'll turn to Adm. Grady before we take questions.

ADMIRAL CHRISTOPHER W. GRADY: Yes, ma'am. Thanks. Madam Secretary, thank you and thank you for your strong leadership. And on behalf of the Chairman and the Joint Force, I welcome everyone here today for this briefing, and it really is an honor and a privilege to represent the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, the Marines, and the Guardians of the Joint Force as we discuss DOD's Fiscal Year '24 President's Budget Request.

And we are approaching this request – this fiscal year '24 budget request – with our strategy first and foremost, particularly as – as it calls to prioritize the pacing threat, the pacing challenge of China. The work of implementing the 2022 National Defense Strategy and the Strategic Framework that were provided by the 2022 National Military Strategy has served as the basis for last year's budget request and certainly for this year's budget submissions as well, a continuation if you will.

As the NDS directs, our $842 billion budget prioritizes defense of the homeland, deterring strategic attacks, deterring aggression, all while positioning the Joint Force to prevail in conflict if necessary. And with this budget, the Joint Force is truly delivering on the strategic discipline that is at the center of the National Military Strategy.

Over the past several months, Secretary Hicks has skillfully led the department through our budget development, ultimately producing an outcome that the American people can be confident in, an outcome that ensures that the Joint Force remains the most lethal and capable military on the planet, an outcome that takes care of our service members and their families, and an outcome that takes action today while also working toward the future.

We will continue with FY23's direction to modernize and transform the force into what is needed to deter and, if necessary, to prevail in the 2030s and beyond.

This budget resources the department to sustain and strengthen the Joint Force, and we will maintain our advantage by continuing to invest in resolute, ready, and lethal warriors who are the best led, the best equipped, and the best trained in the world.

And as always, I would reiterate what the secretary said, that the Joint Force is best positioned to maintain and build on our enduring advantages when we receive sufficient, timely, sustained and predictable funding, and I too look forward to partnering with Congress in this endeavor. And as always, it is our task to be responsible stewards of the nation's resources.

And so in a rapidly changing security environment, we know that we must innovate across all domains in the budget development process and we have worked hard to optimize our investments in areas such as the nuclear enterprise, space and cyber, munitions and precision long range fires.

The budget expands the department's efforts in all domain awareness; it increases resiliency in the Defense Industrial Base; and renews our magazine depth so that we are ready whenever we are called.

The FY24 budget does this as it continues to invest in key areas that will enable the department to translate the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy, and the Joint Warfighting Concept into the operational capabilities required to defer -- deter and to win.

And most importantly, the FY24 budget request remains in line with our strategic approach and prioritizes China as the pacing challenge while recognizing the acute threat posed by Russia.

So again, Madam Secretary, thank you for your leadership and for your words today, and again, it's my distinct pleasure to be here on behalf of the 2.1 million members of the Joint Force.

STAFF: Thank you. Wonderful. With that, we'll turn it over and take a few questions. Tara Copp, Associated Press?

Q: Hi, thank you both. For Admiral Grady, in your requirements role at the department, how has China shaped this year's budget? Can you list one or two very specific priorities that are here now to face that challenge?

And then for you both, at this current rate of growth, the Department of Defense budget will top $1 trillion in just a matter of a few years. How can you explain to the American taxpayer why all of this money is needed and how it's still not enough? Because even in the next couple of weeks, you'll likely see the services go to Congress with unmet needs. So how is it that, with this size of a budget, there's still -- the services still need so much?

ADM. GRADY: I'll go ahead and start --

DR. HICKS: Sure.

ADM. GRADY: -- Madam Secretary.

Well, thanks.

I am the chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Committee, the JROC. But that really starts with a straight line from strategy all the way down to budget. The requirements piece is just a part of that.

And we are clearly focused on PRC as the pacing challenge. But let's go back to the Joint War Fighting Concept, that strategy that devolves from the NSS, the NDS and the NMS. And if you look at where our investments derive from those requirements or are -- are manifest, you look at the four key battles for advantage, in fires, in command-and-control, in information advantage and in contested logistics.

So as the deputy mentioned, 11-point -- $11 billion in joint fires as an example, or $30.6 billion for munitions writ large, under the fires category; and command-and-control, JADC2 initiatives, where -- which was so critical to tying all this together, about $1.4 billion there; information advantage, to include cyber and things like getting to the zero trust framework -- framework, about $13.5 billion; and then within contested logistics, $3 billion for 15 KC -- KC-46 Alphas, to modernize and recapitalize the airborne refueling fleet.

All of this derives from the work that the JROC does.

DR. HICKS: Let me address the resources piece. First of all, staying focused, really, on the '24 budget, we worked very hard to make sure we can defend the value the taxpayer and the war-fighter is going to get from any dollar that we put in. We do not take for granted or take lightly the trust and confidence of the American people in making sure to support the defense of the nation.

At the same time, they have an expectation that there's going to be a defense of their interests, should the time come that they need to deploy, or employ U.S. military forces. And we want to make sure we can deliver that.

So that's why we put such emphasis on -- on making clear that the -- that the budget is strategy-derived. Less important to us is the input part, the top line. That becomes the big issue inside the Washington debate often, but what we really care about is outcome. Can we deliver what we need to at the right time and place for the war-fighter and do it in a way that's respectful of what the taxpayers have entrusted to us?

Look, I've been around this department a long time. There is no such thing as a no-risk budget. We've never been able to have that. We are not a nation that lives in a no-risk world. But what we owe and we believe we have delivered here is a very robust, ready, capable -- combat-capable force that can pace against that challenge of the PRC, as I said, today, tomorrow, into the future. That's really our focus.

STAFF: Thank you. Next up we'll go to Mike Stone, Reuters.

Q: Mike Stone, Reuters. You talk about munitions, but in some cases munitions are going up 20-plus percent for specific missiles. NATO has revised up their stockpile targets. Is the United States also going to revise up stockpile targets for various munitions?

DR. HICKS: Let me -- we assess what we need for ourselves for munitions routinely. We do it against the way in which we think about how we fight for the future and against the real world today demands that our combatant commands have to – how they would operate with the forces that they have. I won't go into further detail there, and I'll invite the vice chairman to make comments.

Our focus on munitions, as I said, is really expanding out our munitions supply base, that industrial base. That's both here in the United States and then working alongside allies and partners, and then maxing out production against that. With the multi-year procurement authority that we now are able to use, that Congress gave us in the last NDAA, that allows us to put a lot more predictability into -- and stabilize and keep warm, if you will, that production base. We're very focused on that as well.

And we're focused, as I said, not just on what we may need today, for example, to support Ukraine and what the COCOMs need today in their theaters, but looking ahead to the types of capabilities that we think are game-changing for the future. So we're taking all of those factors into account as we've expanded, so substantially expanded this munitions investment.

ADM. GRADY: Yes, I would say the munitions piece is at the very top of the -- the chairman's agenda for this year and into the out years. I think it starts with an understanding that we have to have the appropriate mix of the right types of munitions. So we've talked about some of those, in, say, hypersonics or in cruise missiles, and how we think about incentivizing the defense industrial base, whether it's a stockpile or -- or keeping the production line going is -- is front and center to that.

I would also add, leveraging multiyear procurement is a -- is a really good thing, and the chairman is -- is one who'd clearly support that.

And then the last thing I would say is that when we think about the defense industrial base and munitions, we do leverage one of the great competitive advantages we have, and that's our allies and partners. And so the defense industrial base can be seen in two capacities. One is certainly ours, and then the -- the larger -- the defense industrial base across our allies and partners.

STAFF: Great, thank you. With that, we'll go to Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg.

Q: I had a couple of question. The lines of attack against your budget started emerging last week. I -- I wanted to address them. One, China increased its defense budget $7.2 bill -- 7.2%. The U.S. only increased it 3.2%. And two, the Pentagon can't pass an audit. Why should it be given this unbridled amount of money? These are the two lines of attack you're going to have to deal with from both sides of the political spectrum.

And for Admiral, are there any JROC initiatives that are reflected in the budget in terms of increasing the resiliency of space assets? This is a theme we keep hearing, the increased resiliency. Any JROC initiatives in the Air Force and Space Force budgets that address that issue?

DR. HICKS: So I'll start on the percent comparison, if you will. I'll -- I'll repeat a little of what I said here. Our focus is on outcomes, not inputs, so comparing who spends what on what is not a great metric for determining success on the battlefield. You look at the Russian experience we've just seen over the last year -- a lot of tanks, a lot of humans, not a lot of good battlefield outcomes. We are not a paper-tiger military; we are very combat-credible -- 20 years of experience, and very well-trained on top of that. We are focused on the future fight, and we practice against those challenges routinely. These investments that we are making are about making sure we can deliver those sense -- you know, act-shoot outcomes that we believe we need. We think we're better at it than the Chinese are.

Audit. Audit's incredibly important. This department is, from the secretary on down, focused on making sure we can achieve a -- a clean audit opinion. We knew going in when this began as a priority for the department that it would probably take about a decade. That is tracked to, for instance, Department of Homeland Security, other large institutions. We are the largest institution that's ever tried to get to a clean audit. It will take time.

That said, our focus in the department, which I think GAO has recognized, is to have a lot of leadership focus, align the incentives, align the performance incentives, against the need for audit, take it out of just being something that the financial management community has to worry about, and make it commanders' business, and I assure you, commanders understand at this point that it is their business that we get to a clean audit. We will keep people accountable for that.

ADM. GRADY: And on the resiliency question, I would say that that's a theme of the -- of the -- the budget that you see here, and outcome, as the deputy discussed. But it's also a -- a theme within the processes of the -- of the JROC. And you can look at resiliency across several lines of effort, certainly, those that you mentioned in space, building a resilient space architecture as an example, as a requirement that comes out of the JROC, you can look at resiliency in basing, distribution of fuel, hardening. These are all requirements that come out of the JROC, built on the strategy that the -- the secretary signed out.

STAFF: Great. We have time for one or two more so I'll go to Felicia Schwartz, Financial Times.

Q: Just a follow-up for you, Adm. Grady, on Mike's question. Are you saying that you haven't decided yet whether to revise the stockpile targets?

And then for both of you, can you just talk a little bit about how the budget reflects the lessons learned in the Ukraine war and if you think you're sending enough of a demand signal for weapons like Stingers and Javelins that have been very critical in the fight?

ADM. GRADY: Sure. I -- I think the team can give you a good rundown of where the investments are across those stockpiles. That's not a static question, by the way. It is one that we continue to reassess over and over. And so this budget, I think, as the Deputy points out, makes significant investments in -- in munitions and also in how we thus incentivize the industrial base to maintain production lines.

But again, that will continue to change and we will continue to assess that each year as we go forward.

DR. HICKS: That's exactly right. I'll just go to the lessons learned piece. There -- there are a lot that we take away from Ukraine, and I'll -- I'll just underscore that we're only a year in and we anticipate that we'll continue to learn lessons as we go, and -- and with time and distance, we'll probably see some things we haven't already seen.

But let me just mention a few that are evident today. First, as I've pointed out, is readiness. Having a combat credible force well trained is extremely valuable. The Ukrainians have proven this. The United States and other partners for Ukraine have been training them since 2014.

Those seven years of training have proven out and they are at -- adoption of Western approaches to warfare and their ability to employ their force effectively has been incredibly valuable. We think that that's a lesson both for us to reinforce our investment in our people and in our readiness and is a -- a warning to others.

The second I'll say, quite obviously, is allies and partners' asymmetric advantage to the United States. We have collective capability in our economic throw weight, we have collective capability in our industrial throw weight, and certainly in the military sense.

A third is really on logistics and enablers. This can include intelligence. The Ukrainians and the United States and others have benefited from superior intelligence. Alongside better logistics, we have done incredible work. The USTRANSCOM command in particular, I'll point out, EUCOM and others, incredible work on logistics and movement of supplies.

The final thing I'll say, which is related, is the industrial base and supply chain piece. Significant lesson learned from COVID all the way through Ukraine into today. That's why you see such significant investments there for us.

STAFF: Great, thank you. And with our last question, we'll go to Lara Seligman, Politico.

Q: Thank you. Can I ask you to just make some topline comments about ship building? First of all, do you have a date for the 30-year ship building plan that's supposed to be submitted to Congress? And then just some comments broadly about the decision in the Navy's budget not to buy additional amphibious ships. So if you can just make some broad topline comments there, that would be helpful. Thank you.

DR. HICKS: Sure. I'll -- I'll start and then I'll turn it to the vice chairman.

So the ship building plan, I'll defer to the secretary of the Navy. I know the Navy's briefing later today and they may be able to give you an updated timeline. We -- we have every expectation that we're going to be submitting this ship building plan here in -- in near -- in the near term.

We absolutely believe in the importance of amphibious capabilities. We believe that's vital to the Indo-Pacific region, in particular, and as we look at all of the investments we're making, for example, in the Marine Corps' Force Design 2030. Of course, it includes the ability to move around our Marine forces.

The question is really what is the right mix of capabilities for today and for tomorrow, and that's where we're taking time to look at what that right mix of capabilities looks like, including, of course, in your -- in the -- in the case you're pointing out on the amphibious forces.

Let me turn to see if the vice chairman has any additional items.

ADM. GRADY: Yes, ma'am, a couple of comments to add to that. You know, capability and capacity and that right mix is -- is what is being studied right now. That study will conclude here, I believe, in the third quarter of -- of this year. So over to the Navy and you can ask them some more questions about that.

On the amphibious piece, I would say that this budget clearly funds what -- and -- and supports, better said, what we need to do for this year and -- and for next year from a -- a -- where we expect the -- the amphibious readiness groups to -- to go. And the -- based on this study then, I think it's prudent for us to wait for that to come forward until we can make any conclusions on what is the appropriate capability and capacity mix going forward.

So amphibious is -- capability is super important. There's a study underway and look forward to the results that the Department of the Navy brings forward.

STAFF: Great. Thank you all. That concludes our briefing for today. Thank you.