Sunday, June 23, 2024

Austin Makes Case for Military Budget to Senate Committee

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights the need for a competent, ready military to deter any would-be foe.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described to the Senate Appropriations Committee today, DOD’s strategy and how the budget request supports that strategy.

The threats are real. “We are now facing two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, both who intend to fundamentally change the current rules-based order,” Milley said. “We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable, and the potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing.”

“We’re still focused on three key priorities at the Department of Defense: Defending our nation, taking care of our people and succeeding through teamwork,” Austin said. “And our budget request helps us meet each one of those priorities.”

The secretary broke down how the request supports the domains of warfare. He said the request proposes $56 billion for air power, more than $40 billion for sea power — including nine new battle force ships — and “almost $13 billion to support and modernize our combat-credible forces on land.”

At a time when Russian leaders casually threaten nuclear strikes, the budget request also “funds the modernization of all three legs of the nuclear triad to ensure that we maintain a safe, secure and effective strategic deterrent,” Austin said.

But the secretary stressed time and again, that none of these capabilities means a thing without the trained and motivated people who use them. He called for a 4.6 percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel. “We also plan to invest in outstanding and affordable childcare, in the construction of on-base child development centers, and in ensuring that all our families can always put good and healthy food on the table,” he said.

The department also is working to counter the problems of suicide in the ranks and implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault. Austin said both are issues of leadership, and he vowed to continue leading.

Supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unjust and unprovoked war is another global priority. He noted that the meeting he convened last week in Ramstein Air Base, Germany, attracted more than 40 nations. “That gathering sent a powerful signal that nations of goodwill are intensifying their efforts to help Ukraine better defend itself,” he said.

Milley called the Russian invasion “the greatest threat to peace and security of Europe — and perhaps the world — in my 42 years in uniform. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is threatening to undermine not only European peace and stability but global peace and stability that my parents and generations of Americans fought so hard to defend. The islands of the Pacific [and] the beaches of Normandy bore witness to the incredible tragedy that befalls humanity when nations seek power through military aggression across sovereign borders. Despite this horrific assault on the institutions of freedom, is heartening to see the world rally and say never again, the specter of war in Europe.”

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley

The United States has been able to supply Ukraine with technologies that have allowed their fighters to push the invaders back from the capital of Kyiv and more than hold their own in terrific fighting in the Donbas region.

“Even before Putin started his war of choice, we provided Ukraine with a billion dollars worth of weapons and gear through presidential drawdown authority,” Austin said. “And since Russia’s invasion, the United States has committed some $3.7 billion to Ukraine. But the war is changing, and the coming weeks will be crucial.”

The U.S. goal is to get the Ukrainian military the capabilities that will be most useful in the fight in the Donbas and in the southern part of the country, the secretary said. Congress has a role to play in this effort and he urged the legislators to quickly pass the $33 billion supplemental budget request, “which will help us continue to meet Ukraine’s urgent requirements without interruption.”

If passed, the request would provide $16 billion for the Department of Defense, $5 billion of additional presidential drawdown authority, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $5 billion “for critical investments and to help cover the operational costs of bolstering NATO‘s eastern flank,” Austin said.

While Russia is dangerous, China remains America’s pacing threat, Austin reminded the legislators. The budget allots $6 billion in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. “In keeping with our new National Defense Strategy, we are going to enhance our force posture, infrastructure, presence and readiness in the Indo-Pacific — including the missile defense of Guam,” he said.

Again, threats from nation-states are not the only problem confronting the United States. “We must be prepared for threats that pay no heed to borders, from pandemics to climate change,” the secretary said. “And we must tackle the persistent threats posed by North Korea, Iran and global terrorist groups.”

The military is well-positioned today to fight these threats, but it must remain effective in the years ahead. The budget request allots $130 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation. “This includes $1 billion for artificial intelligence, $50 million for 5G, nearly $28 billion for space capabilities and another $11 billion to protect our networks and develop a cyber mission force,” Austin said.

“This budget maintains our edge, but it does not take that edge for granted,” the secretary said.

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