Chairman Tester Questions Defense Secretary, Chairman of Joint Chiefs on FY23 Defense Budget

Hearing focused on maintaining military leadership over China, assistance for Ukraine

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, this week questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and General Mike Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regarding the Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD). In particular, Chairman Tester emphasized the importance of continuing the DoD’s strategic focus on ensuring America maintains its position of global military leadership in the face of the rising threat of China, and ensure that the military is held accountable to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly on what servicemen and women need to succeed on the battlefield.

“I am first and foremost interested in hearing how this budget builds on previously enacted appropriations to ensure America’s continued military advantage in light of near-peer competition from China,” said Chairman Tester. “Let’s be clear, China continues to be the pacing threat. They’re watching us closely, waiting to see if we can actually walk and chew gum at the same time. Whether it is Chinese nuclear force expansion, development of space capabilities, or cyber activities, they are working hard to catch up to us.”

He continued, “We cannot afford to waste time or money to ensure that we are getting our troops what they need do to their jobs, at the right time and at the right cost.”

The Department of Defense’s FY23 budget request of $733 billion is a continuation of last year’s innovation budget focused on building capabilities to deter China as the “pacing threat”, investing heavily in research and development for new military capabilities, retiring older, less capable weapons that are expensive to maintain, and increasing investments in climate resilience and industrial capabilities. Additionally, On Thursday, April 28th, the Administration submitted a $33 billion supplemental appropriations request for critical assistance to Ukraine.

In addition to questioning Secretary Austin about China’s continued place as the United States’ number one strategic competitor, Chairman Tester asked General Milley about the budget’s significant investments in research and development of weapons and programs for future battlefield needs, and when those weapons and programs will be ready for operation. He also asked Secretary Austin about the effectiveness of recently passed supplemental funding for military assistance for Ukraine and how the DoD is making sure the weapons that are provided are making it into the right hands:

“I want to talk about something that’s already been visited, that’s accountability, there’s been $3.7 billion spent on a supplemental so far, that’s a lot of money,” Chairman Tester said. “And there’s another $16.4 billion projected to go out. You had said with earlier questions that you’re reasonably confident that the weaponry is getting to the Ukranians…the question is that, are we making sure that: number one, none of these weapons are falling into the wrong hands, is there any way to even do that? And number two, are we making sure that the taxpayer dollars that are being spent are actually making a difference? And I’m talking a significant difference.”

“I think they are making a significant difference, Chairman, just look at the battlefield today versus what we are looking at a couple of weeks ago,” said Secretary Austin. “In terms of accountability, we have to depend on the Ukrainians at this point to do the right thing, and make sure they are prudent and careful about how they issue these weapons out and account for these weapons. Again, I engaged the very senior leadership in the country on this issue, and they assured me that this is something that’s important and that they’ll continue to focus on.”

Chairman Tester took the gavel of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in 2021. Last year, Chairman Tester secured critical funding and priorities in the fiscal year 2022 Department of Defense Appropriations legislation to ensure America’s national security, provide essential resources to our troops, and invest in the readiness and capabilities of critical military installations like Malmstrom Air Force Base. In response to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, Chairman Tester also secured billions in military and humanitarian resources for American allies in Europe.

The Subcommittee on Defense is responsible for providing nearly $800 billion annually to the Department of Defense and related agencies. This is more than 95 percent of the military’s yearly budget, and includes matters ranging from pay and benefits for millions of service members and civilians to the development of advanced technologies and next-generation weapons. The Subcommittee also oversees funding for nearly all major U.S. intelligence agencies.