US defence budget will drive national strategy

Kathleen Hicks

The fiscal 2024 defense budget request is said to be driven by the requirements of the National Defense Strategy and supporting Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s move to take care of the people of the department

President Joe Biden’s national defence budget request comes in at $886.3 billion, with $842 billion to the US Department of Defense (DOD) alone. This marks a $26 billion increase over the fiscal 2023 enacted budget.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks called the 2024 budget request “the most strategy aligned budget in history,” and said, “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,” she said. “It is a force aimed at deterring and, if called upon, defeating threats today and tomorrow, even as the threats themselves advance,” she added.

Hicks and McCord stressed that the request is a “procurement budget.” If Congress approves the budget, the DOD will buy “game changing capabilities that will deliver not just in the out years, but in the near term.”

“Our greatest measure of success — and the one we use around here most often — is to make sure the [Chinese] leadership wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression and concludes ‘today is not the day,'” Hicks said.

In addition, if Congress passes the bill, military and civilian members of DOD will receive a 5.2% pay raise. Currently, the Navy has grown by approximately 6000 personnel, and the Space Force has grown from 8600 to 9400. Total figures for military personnel will be set at 2,074,000, up from 2,061,645 today.

The budget continues the course set in last year’s budget request. Senior officials said of this budget, “[it] is based on the same defence strategy that we put out only 11 months ago. So, everything that we cared about last year we care about this year, everything we funded last year is in this budget as well.”

Officials emphasised that the budget is built on the premise that China is the pacing threat, with Russia being an immediate threat and challenges from North Korea, Iran and terror groups also being considered in this.

Support to Ukraine, however, is not a part of this budget. Officials said the situation and needs are “too fluid”. Aid to Ukraine will be handled via supplemental funding, a senior defence official said.

Nuclear enterprise modernisation continues under this budget. The budget request increases funding for modernisation and recapitalisation. It contains $5.3 billion to continue development and procurement of the B-21 bomber, $6.2 billion to produce the second Columbia class ballistic submarine and money for advanced procurement funding for the Sentinel missile program.

The budget also contains $29.8 billion for missile defeat and defense program and $11 billion, “to deliver a mix of hypersonic and long-range subsonic missiles,” Joyner said.

All the presenters said that the Defense Budget Request contains the largest space budget in department history. The $33.3 billion request includes missile warning technology, money for GPS follow-on satellite support and $3 billion to fund 15 launch vehicles and launch-range upgrades.

President Joe Biden can request this budget, but it is Congress who are in power of authorising the budget and appopriating the funds.

“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,” Hicks added.

She noted that since fiscal 2011, DOD has been under a continuing resolution for four years. This means four years’ worth of delayed new program starts, delayed training, delayed permanent change of station moves and more.

“That’s four years lost over the last decade-plus to outcompete [China],” she said. “We cannot have one hand tied behind our back for 3,4,5 [or] 6 months of each year. And let me assure you more money cannot buy back this lost time.”

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