Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress at a Thursday hearing that the Pentagon’s 2024 budget request will help the country prepare for a future war with China.
Milley insisted the Pentagon’s massive $842 billion budget request is meant to deter war but said it will also prepare the US military to fight one. He told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense that deterring and preparing for a conflict “is extraordinarily expensive, but it’s not as expensive as fighting a war. And this budget prevents war and prepares us to fight it if necessary.”
The Pentagon identified China as the “most comprehensive and serious challenge to US national security strategy” in the 2022 National Defense Strategy, and lately, US military leaders have been speaking more explicitly about how they’re preparing for a direct war with China despite the risk of nuclear war. President Biden has also vowed to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Milley said China’s actions “are moving it down the path toward confrontation and potential conflict with its neighbors and possibly the United States,” echoing similar warnings made by Chinese officials.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned earlier this month that if the US doesn’t change course on its military buildup in the Asia Pacific and other policies aimed at China, it will lead to “conflict and confrontation.” The Pentagon’s budget request will further expand the US military footprint in the region by funding a buildup plan known as the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
“This budget includes a 40 percent increase over last year’s for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to an all-time high of $9.1 billion,” Austin said at the hearing.