BREAKING: White House Asks for $842 Billion in 2024 DOD Funding, 3.2 Percent Above 2023 Budget (UPDATED)
President Joe Biden unveiled a nearly $1.9 trillion fiscal year 2024 budget request, including $842 billion for the Defense Department — $26 billion more than Congress appropriated for the department in the December omnibus spending bill.
Leading up to the budget release, the Biden administration had signaled it would ask for more than Congress had enacted in the 2023 budget.
However, while the request is a nominal increase over the $816 billion enacted in the 2023 budget, persistent inflation — hovering in the 8 percent range — means the requested 2024 defense funding would result in a loss of purchasing power.
The presidential budget request released March 9 provided only topline numbers and gave no indication of allocations to the individual services or major budget categories like acquisition, research and development or personnel.
Adding in non-Defense Department funding for nuclear programs run by the Department of Energy, total requested defense spending for 2024 is $880 billion. That is 3.2 percent of projected GDP and 47 percent of total discretionary spending.
During the previous budget cycles, Congress has criticized the president’s requests for being inadequate to address modernization needs for a peer-adversary fight and to cover inflation. Congress added $46 billion to the president’s 2023 defense budget request.
This year could be different, however. Conservative Republicans, emboldened by the 15-round House speaker vote, have called for cuts to spending, including defense. One proposal that has been floated is capping spending at 2022 enacted levels, which would mean a Pentagon budget in the $740 billion range.
Defense analysts and former members of Congress have cautioned that the polarization in Washington and the looming 2024 presidential election could paralyze Congress this year. Speaking at a conference in Virginia last fall, former chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said, “The best you can, I would plan for a yearlong [continuing resolution] to go for the next year through the election.”
And battle lines were drawn quickly after the budget release. Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., was quick to praise the defense topline in a statement.
“The President’s defense topline request is among the largest in history, reflecting the reality of the national security challenges we face,” he said. “Some will inevitably say the topline is too much, while others will claim it is not enough,” he continued, adding that the topline is a useful starting point for the Senate’s work on the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.
However, SASC ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., was equally quick with a criticism of the defense request in a press release.
“The President’s defense budget is woefully inadequate and disappointing,” he said. “It does not even resource his own National Defense Strategy to protect our country from growing threats around the world.”
In the budget summary, the White House said the 2024 defense funding “enables DOD to make the investments necessary to execute the Administration’s 2022 National Security and National Defense Strategies.”
The summary then listed 20 bullet points expanding on the focus areas, saying the increased funding promotes integrated deterrence in the Indo-Pacific and globally; supports Ukraine, European Allies and partners; counters persistent threats; modernizes the nuclear deterrent; and advances U.S. cyber security.
Other priorities include providing more care for service members — including a 5.2 percent pay raise — sexual assault prevention and justice reform and promoting energy efficiency and resiliency on military installations.
In terms of the individual services, 2024 funding will support modernization efforts such as fielding new fighters and bombers, recapitalizing the ballistic submarine fleet, building long-range fires and strike capabilities and improving resilience of space capabilities, according to the summary.
The summary also noted that funding will support continued research and development and strengthening the U.S. supply chain.
One detail in the budget request summary likely to attract attention is the growing cost of interest on the national debt. Interest payments in 2024 will cost $796, and by 2027 will exceed defense spending in future budgets.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated total requested defense spending for 2024 is $880 trillion.