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Defense Secretary to Congress: 2023 military budget funds 'significant capability'

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Defense Secretary to Congress: 2023 military budget funds 'significant capability'
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Austin told the committee the 2023 defense budget is "very healthy" and provides significant military capability. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 11 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a U.S. House sub-committee Wednesday that the 2023 defense budget is a "very healthy" budget that provides the military with "significant capability."

Austin told the House appropriations sub-committee on defense that the $773 billion proposed defense budget was built based on new national defense strategy.

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The strategy is classified and has been provided to Congress, according to the Defense Department, which said an unclassified version will be made public in the coming weeks.

Austin said the 2023 budget funds to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a 4.6% military personnel pay raise and nine more "battle-force ships."

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"We're entering a world that's becoming more unstable," Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley told the sub-committee.

Austin said that U.S. military aid to Ukraine approved by Congress has made "a huge difference on the ground" in Ukraine, where "the coming weeks will be critical" for their fight against Russia.

"We're at a very critical and historic geo-political flex-point," Milley said, adding that the world is witnessing the greatest security threat to Europe in over forty years in Russia's war on Ukraine.

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Austin said U.S. military aid to Ukraine has not diminished military readiness in other parts of the world, including maintaining "pace and efforts" in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The strategic main effort for the U.S. military is in the Indo-Pacific," Gen. Milley said during his testimony. "Ukraine costs are not impacting readiness in the Pacific."

Asked about U.S. contingency plans should Russia attack nations in Europe beyond Ukraine, Austin said President Joe Biden is committed to "defending every inch of NATO."

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"If Russia decides to attack any nation that's a NATO member, certainly NATO would most likely respond as a coalition," Austin said.

There are 1.9 million troops in NATO's military forces, and the alliance has the most advanced capability in the world, Austin said.

"Militarily, we are very capable of responding to any escalation," Milley said, noting that there are contingency plans to counter further Russian aggression.

The White House defense budget proposal includes $234.1 billion for the Air Force, $230.9 billion for the Navy and $177.3 billion for the Army.

"This budget reflects our strategy of directing resources to critical investments that allow us to maintain a combat credible force to defend the homeland, marshal America's next generation of technology, effectively maintain readiness, and take care of the men, women and family members of the U.S. military," Austin wrote in the budget proposal.

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Forty GOP lawmakers have requested a 5% hike in the proposed defense budget, partly because the assumptions about inflation in the budget request were lower than the current inflation rate, they said.

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