San Francisco Chronicle
Pentagon: Budget readies U.S. for conflict with China
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military must be ready for possible confrontation with China, the Pentagon's leaders said Thursday, pushing Congress to approve the Defense Department's proposed $842 billion budget.
The budget, an increase of $26 billion over fiscal 2023 levels, would help modernize U.S. forces in Asia and around the world.
“This is a strategy-driven budget — and one driven by the seriousness of our strategic competition with the People's Republic of China,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.
Pointing to increases in new technology, such as hypersonics, Austin said the budget proposes to spend more than $9 billion to build up military capabilities in the Pacific and defend allies there. That's a 40 percent increase over last year.
The testimony comes on the heels of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow, which added to concerns that China will step up its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine and increasingly threaten the West.
China's actions, said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “are moving it down the path toward confrontation and potential conflict with its neighbors and possibly the United States.”
He said deterring and preparing for war “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.”
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., pressed Austin and Milley on Xi's meeting with Putin and its impact on U.S. competition with China, which he called “the elephant in the room.” The U.S., he said, is “at a crucial moment here.”
The growing alliance between China and Russia, two nuclear powers, and Xi's overtures to Putin during the Ukraine war are “troubling,” Austin said.
He added that the U.S. hasn't seen China provide arms to Russia, but if it does, “it would prolong the conflict and certainly broaden the conflict potentially not only in the region but globally.”
Milley, who will retire later this year, said the Defense Department must continue to modernize its forces to ensure they will be ready to fight if needed.
“It is incumbent upon us to make sure we remain No. 1 at all times” to be able to deter China, he said.