The Department of Defense’s (DoD) $842 billion budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2024 is “strategy-driven” and critical to the nation’s challenge to keep pace with China, a top Defense official told lawmakers during a March 28 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee the FY 2024 defense budget is driven by the seriousness of the nation’s strategic competition with China, investing in a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific region, and increasing the scale of exercises with partner nations.

With China as a pacing challenge, investment in the Indo-Pacific region is a big part of the FY 2024 budget. In the Pacific, the DoD is investing in a more resilient force posture and is also increasing the size and complexity of exercises with partner nations in the region, Austin said.

“This is a strategy-driven budget – and one driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” Austin said.

“At $842 billion, it’s a 3.2 percent increase over [the] fiscal year 2023 enacted … and it is 13.4 percent higher than [the] FY 22 enacted. This budget will help us continue to implement our National Defense Strategy,” Austin said.

A key priority of the National Defense Strategy is the strategic competition with the PRC. According to the strategy, the most comprehensive and serious challenge to U.S. national security is the PRC’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive endeavor to refashion the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to suit its interests and authoritarian preferences.”

“The PRC is our pacing challenge. And we’re driving hard to meet it. Our budget builds on our previous investments to deter aggression,” Austin said.

For example, the FY 2024 budget request includes a 40 percent increase for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative – which was established to develop capabilities, operational concepts, and planning to strengthen deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

“We’re investing in a more resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific and increasing the scale and the scope of our exercises with our partners,” Austin said.

“This year’s $9.1 billion request for the PDI funds a stronger force posture, better defenses for Hawaii and Guam, and deeper cooperation with allies and partners there,” he said, adding that the department is forward-stationing and deploying more forces and investing in airfields, logistics, domain awareness, and resilience.

In addition, the budget focuses on furthering the department’s three priorities: defending the nation, taking care of service members and families, and developing stronger relationships and cooperation with partners and allied nations, according to Austin.

The FY 2024 budget request, Austin said, also marks the department’s largest investment in research and development. This year, the request for research and development efforts stands at $145 billion.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.