Austin, Brown to testify on defense budget April 9

By Tony Bertuca / April 3, 2024 at 11:36 AM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown are scheduled to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 9 to discuss the fiscal year 2025 defense budget request alongside Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord.

Pentagon modernization spending is slated to decrease under the new request though the military services and combatant commands have sent Congress “unfunded priorities lists” seeking tens of billions of dollars in new spending.

The Defense Department -- capped by a two-year congressional spending deal -- is seeking about $850 billion for FY-25, with $167.5 billion for procurement and $143.2 billion for research, development, test and evaluation for a total modernization investment of $310.7 billion that does not keep pace with inflation.

Congress, after months of partisan haggling, passed an FY-24 appropriations package in March that would fund DOD at $824.3 billion, an increase of $26.8 billion above what Congress enacted in FY-23.

The total modernization investment for FY-24 enacted by Congress is $320 billion with procurement funded at $172 billion (an increase of $3 billion over the FY-24 budget request and $9.8 billion more than the FY-23 enacted level) and RDT&E funded at $148.3 billion, an increase of $3.4 billion above the FY-24 request and $8.6 billion more than the FY-23 enacted level.

Some GOP lawmakers, like Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS), have said the FY-25 request is too small but have not openly advocated breaking the caps set by the 2023 Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Austin and Brown are also expected to push committee members to continue their support of a $95 billion security supplemental spending package that the Senate has already passed with bipartisan approval but remains stalled in the House.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), after months of opposing the package -- which would provide foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and modernize the U.S. submarine industrial base -- recently told Fox News he will soon bring a version of the measure up for a vote, eyeing use of federal law that would pay for some of the Ukraine aid by selling off Russian assets that have been frozen by the U.S. government.

Brown, speaking to reporters last week, said lawmakers need to appreciate that the supplemental actually invests billions in the U.S. defense industrial base.

“Eighty percent of that money comes back into our defense industrial base, our American workforce, American jobs,” he said. “We’ve got to talk more about how this actually supports our defense industrial base.”