Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Funding Request and Budget Justifications for the Department of Defense”
On Tuesday May 3, the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense met to review the President’s FY23 funding request and budget justifications for the Department of Defense (DoD). Members largely discussed the support for Ukraine, threats in the Indo-Pacific, and troop wellness.
Members in Attendance
Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. Moran expressed concern that the U.S. cannot rely on nuclear deterrence for hypersonic attacks, asking how they will ensure troop safety from hypersonic attacks and what shifts are expected in missile and interceptor investments. Secretary Austin replied that this budget is investing $7.2 billion in long range fires, $4.7 billion of which is focused on hypersonics. He said hypersonic capabilities are important in combination with other capabilities. Sen. Moran asked about the hypersonics workforce. Secretary Austin replied that they have engaged the industry, asking them to increase production but that they have not yet pushed or invested in hypersonics to the degree they can. Gen. Milley told Sen. Murkowski that the key to hypersonics is that they are very fast with no defensive weapon against them. He said the units, equipment, and organization of hypersonics needs to be smaller, faster, and difficult to find on the battlefield. Secretary Austin also shared his support for a sky range system to test hypersonics.
Providing Support to Ukraine
In his opening statement, Secretary Austin said the U.S. delivered security assistance to Ukraine with unprecedented speed and resolve, giving Ukraine $1 billion worth of weapons before the war and committing $3.7 billion since the invasion. He stated the goal to give the Ukrainians the capabilities they need in the South and Donbas regions. He described the $33 billion supplemental request that allocates $16 billion for the DOD, $5 billion of which is for additional drawdown authority, $6 billion for Ukrainian security initiatives, and $5 billion to bolster Ukraine’s eastern fight.
Sen. Hoeven asked what weapons system Ukraine needs the most. Secretary Austin replied that the Ukrainians have asked for long range weapons capabilities, which they are using now. He also said that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were provided. Gen. Milley added that they have provided multiple battalions of 155 cannon and ammunitions that go with them, ground maneuver capabilities, and sustainment of anti-tank weapons. Secretary Austin stated the Ukrainians have been trained to use the tanks and javelins provided to them and are pushing training kits into the country as well. He said the Russians do not have weapons equivalent to the javelins. Secretary Austin and Gen. Milley also clarified that the funds provided by Congress have gone almost entirely to lethal aid.
In response to concerns from Sens. Tester and Murray, Secretary Austin said support provided to Ukraine has been impactful. He said the reports they routinely receive indicate that equipment is arriving at its proper location.
Goals of Ukraine
When asked by Sen. Feinstein, Secretary Austin stated that the endgame will be defined by the Ukrainian government. He expressed the hope that in the end, Ukraine will be a sovereign state with a functioning government that can protect its territory. In response to Sen. Baldwin, Gen. Milley stated the desire to maintain cohesion of NATO, ensure Ukraine is a sovereign nation, avoid a connective war between Russia and NATO, and support the Ukrainian people the ability to defend themselves. Sen. Baldwin asked whether the Administration would request authorization for use of military force if Putin escalates the war. Secretary Austin said that if Putin deploys chemical or biological weapons there will be a reaction by the international community and that the use of military force is a policy decision.
Sen. Graham asked whether the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan increase likelihood for Putin to invade Ukraine. Gen. Milley replied that he believes Putin decided to invade before the U.S. left Afghanistan.
Replenishing Stockpiles and Production
Sens. Blunt, Boozman, and Tester asked about DoD capabilities to replace stockpiles of javelins and stinger missiles provided to Ukraine. He said the U.S. has provided 5,000 javelins and 14,000 stingers—about one third of the javelin stockpile and about a quarter of the stinger stockpile. Secretary Austin said the next supplemental will enable them to replenish stocks and continue providing support to Ukraine. Secretary Austin reassured them they will never go below the minimum stockpile requirement and said they will replenish U.S. stockpiles and the stockpiles of allies who provided those weapons to Ukraine. Secretary Austin stated that stockpiles cannot all be replaced within a year. He said they are optimistic about the javelin industry being able to increase their production rate and said other industries have increased production as much as possible as well.
Sen. Boozman asked how the DoD is supporting industry to maintain and replenish stockpiles. Secretary Austin replied that they have met with industry and encouraged them to increase production. He said that industry has been supportive and are doing so. Secretary Austin also expressed support for investing in American and making sure there are supply lines available. He said with the president’s initiative and the DOD as a stronger partner in that initiative, they are strengthening U.S. supply lines.
China and Indo-Pacific
In his opening statement, Secretary Austin said the primary challenge remains countering aggression from China, and said the budget allocated $6 billion in the Pacific deterrence initiative. This initiative will enhance force posture, improve infrastructure, increase U.S. military presence, and increase readiness in the Indo-Pacific. Secretary Austin said the U.S. aims to be the partner of choice in the Indo-Pacific. He also said the bills to compete with China are critical. He explained that China and Russia do not have the allies the U.S. does and said allies and partners are critical to U.S. national defense. Secretary Austin described China as the U.S. pacing threat and Russia as an acute threat, stating the Ukraine invasion has not caused them to rethink this aspect of the national defense strategy.
Sen. Graham said there are currently 296 battle force ships in the navy and 11 aircraft carriers. He said China has 355 battle force ships and will have 460 by 2030 while the U.S. will have 280 ships by 2032. Sen. Collins asked whether Gen. Milley is concerned that the strategy and budget is inconsistent with assessments saying the U.S. needs a larger fleet. Gen. Milley replied that the U.S. is a maritime nation that needs a sufficient and capable fleet. He said the most important thing is to have current ships at readiness status. He said that while the number of ships China and the U.S. have is important, that the U.S. has partners, which China does not. He also clarified that President Xi has set the objective to have their military capable of seizing Taiwan by 2027, not that they plan to do so.
In his opening statement, Secretary Austin said the President’s Budget seeks support for a 4.6% pay raise for civilian and military personnel as well as other special benefits, including childcare. Sen. Feinstein expressed concerns about food insecurity in the military. Secretary Austin agreed that this is an issue, especially with lower ranking enlisted forces. He said the health and welfare of U.S. forces and families are very important and that this is one reason they are asking for a 4.6% pay raise.
Secretary Austin said the budget is also focusing on the problem of suicide, increasing access to mental healthcare and telehealth, and working to remove mental health stigmas. Sen. Moran expressed concerns about the lack of Executive Order 13822 compliance on mental health screenings. Secretary Austin said they are investing $1.4 billion in mental health efforts and that they will continue to engage with their veterans’ affairs counterparts. He also said they have commissioned an independent review committee to address this issue and provide further insights into mental health issues and suicide prevention.
Sen. Murray asked about Secretary Austin’s assessment of privatized housing compliance. Secretary Austin said he plans to hold these contractors accountable. He said they are putting more resources in the budget so that they can provide more, higher quality housing.