Thursday, February 29, 2024

Austin Says 2023 Budget Built on New Defense Strategy

The fiscal 2023 Defense Budget Request was built on the bones of the new National Defense Strategy, and the request is adequate for today’s military and ensures the military remains strong in the future, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee today (May 11).

That strategy sees China as the pacing challenge for the United States. Russia, with its unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine, is also a threat that must be taken seriously. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who testified alongside Austin, said this is the most uncertain time he has seen in almost 43 years in uniform.

“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.”

The rules-based order came into place at the end of the last great power war — World War II. That war killed between 70 million and 85 million people worldwide.

“We built this budget based upon our national defense strategy, … [and] we were very diligent and careful to make sure that we went after the capabilities that we needed to support that strategy,” Austin said. ” I’m confident that we were successful in doing that.”

At $773 billion, the request funds the initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region and in Europe. “This is a very healthy budget and provides a significant capability,” Austin said.

Still, inflation has caused problems. “When we built the budget, we had to snap a chalk line at some point in time, as you always do when you build a budget,” he said.

Austin said the department had to “snap the chalk line” in 2021 — a time when gross domestic product inflation was around 2% and rising.

A soldier teaches Bulgarian soldiers.

“We saw that that was increasing, and we doubled it basically to … 3.9% for ’22 … and going forward,” said Michael McCord, DOD’s comptroller/chief financial officer. “If you look at the last six months of data — which we did not have then but have now — that number is now 5.3%. So, we are a little under, but as secretary said, we did the best we could with the information we had. We recognize that things have changed a little since then.”

The defense leaders were asked about Ukraine and U.S. support of the embattled democracy. Austin listed the systems and supplies the United States is providing Ukraine including artillery pieces, anti-tank and anti-air weapons. He spoke about the deployment of U.S. troops to the frontline states within NATO, and the U.S. vow to defend every inch of NATO territory.

Austin thanked the House members for passing a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine yesterday and urged the Senate to speedily pass the legislation.

He also spoke of how important it is that the NATO nations stick together in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unnecessary war. Intelligence sharing has been a part of that solidarity. “What we did, in terms of sharing intelligence with our allies and partners, was very, very helpful to demonstrate that we wanted to be transparent and this is a tribute or credit to [President Joe Biden],” Austin said. “It was his decision to move forward and make sure that we shared as much information as possible. That created trust amongst our allies in a more meaningful way. That trust allowed us to create greater unity.”

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