Breaking News
More () »

Lawmakers, defense leaders clash over FY 2024 budget

Republicans on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense complain that the proposed spending plan fails to keep pace with inflation.

WASHINGTON — An epic clash took place on Capitol Hill Thursday over the size of next year's proposed defense spending plan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called it a budget "aimed squarely at keeping America secure in the world of the 21st century."

Austin continued: "This is the budget that will meet this moment."

But Republicans on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense weren't sold. They blasted the proposal for being too small.

The proposed  $842 billion Defense Department spending plan for fiscal 2024 represents an overall 3.2% increase for military operations above current levels.

"I think it needs to be more. You know, 3.2% in an era of 6% inflation is effectively a cut in inflation-adjusted dollars," said Rep. Tom Cole  (R-Oklahoma).

The panel's chairman zeroed in on the Navy, which, under the budget, would add nine warships but also decommission 11, resulting in a net sum loss of two vessels.

"Your budget proposes the decommissioning of eight ships before the end of their service life. And ship count matters," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California).

He directed a question toward Austin, asking: "Mr. Secretary, how does having fewer ships deter Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific?"

Austin replied: "From our perspective, it's about making sure we have the right capabilities to support our warfighting concepts, and I am comfortable we're moving in the right direction."

The Pentagon's top two leaders were also asked about a DOD Inspector General report last December which revealed that the services took in 211 reports of domestic extremism between October 2021 and September 2022, 183 of which launched investigations.

"This isn't something new," said Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff. "We discipline the force. We don't tolerate it. When we find it, we punish it. We get it out. But that shouldn't smear the entire force. This force is a disciplined force that loves America. They will fight and die for it."

On another matter, Secretary Austin said the department is "pushing hard to help eliminate suicide in our ranks," including immediate steps to hire more mental-health professionals and improve access to mental health care.

Additionally, he said, reforms to improve the response to sexual assault and related crimes will be fully implemented by the end of this year. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out