The Biden administration’s proposed defense budget carves out billions for capabilities to strengthen its hand against China, including $9.1 billion to improve the U.S. military’s Pacific presence and deepen military ties with regional allies, Pentagon officials said Monday.
China’s perceived threat to the U.S. drives large portions of the $842 billion budget request, an increase of $26 billion from the final 2023 budget, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said at the official rollout Monday. Included is $9.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), a program that funds weapons, troop deployments, construction and cooperation with Pacific allies specifically intended for bolstering defense in the Pacific, officials said at a briefing. (RELATED: Military Leaders Say DEI Initiatives Aren’t Hurting Recruiting, Accuse Congress Of Politicizing Armed Forces)
“Our greatest measure of success, and the one we use around here most often, is to make sure the PRC [People’s Republic of China] leadership wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression, and concludes, ‘today is not the day,'” Hicks said.
PDI funding under the 2024 proposal would skyrocket past the $6 billion requested for 2023 and support targeted investments in weapons, infrastructure and troop stationing in the Indo-Pacific, according to the budget documents.
The full budget is focused on capabilities and outcomes, not topline numbers, Hicks said. But, it reflects the Biden administration’s characterization of China as a “pacing threat” and is “strategy aligned” with the president’s focus on competing with Beijing.
Overall, the budget prioritizes investment into long-range weapons, nuclear modernization and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as for “additional capabilities” to be revealed at the time and place of the Pentagon’s choosing, Hicks said. In all, the Pentagon plans to spend at least $170 billion on new systems not including possible supplementals, budget documents show.
Republican members of Congress warned that the proposed budget — which represents a less than 1% increase on Congress’ enacted budget for fiscal year 2023, according to Pentagon comptroller Michael McCord — falls short of the funds needed to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and ward off any inclination in Beijing to invade Taiwan.
China recently revealed plans for a 7.2% increase in defense spending, up slightly from the year prior, according to The Associated Press.
However, Hicks shot down the comparison, referencing the complications Russia’s massive army has faced in Ukraine as an example of how military spending itself is “not a great metric for success.”
“We are not a paper tiger military,” she added.
For the 42nd year, allies & partners came together for Exercise #CobraGold. We learned from one another, trained for military & humanitarian operations, helped local communities & grew stronger as #FriendsPartnersAllies@USARPAC @INDOPACOM @CobraGoldRTARF @USEmbassyBKK @I_Corps pic.twitter.com/1jUsPsZ87o
— Exercise Cobra Gold (@ExerciseCG) March 11, 2023
In a separate, congressionally-mandated study, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command submitted an additional $87 billion in spending requirements between 2024 and 2028, including $15.4 billion for 2024, according to Defense News. If approved in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the military would receive additional space capabilities, missiles and air defenses, and basing components in the region.
“Our approach towards the generational challenge posed by the PRC focuses on investing in our own domestic capabilities, aligning our efforts with those of allies and partners and competing with the PRC where interests and values differ,” Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources John Bass said Thursday after the administration released topline numbers, according to Reuters.
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