White House seeks nearly $900bn in defence and security spending

Request overshadows defence spending by other countries, at about three times that of China

A US F-35 fighter jet flies over an international airport near Skopje, North Macedonia, in June 2022. EPA
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President Joe Biden on Monday unveiled a budget proposal that seeks $895 billion in military and national security spending, the highest level to date but also a smaller increase than previous years.

The request, which includes $45 billion for homeland security and nuclear weapons-related activities carried out by the Department of Energy, is the result of a two-year budget deal struck in mid-2023 that limited the budget to a 1 per cent increase.

The budget asks for a 4.5 per cent pay raise for troops, but also trims costs by retiring older weaponry such as ships and planes that are more expensive to operate.

Under the plan, 10 ships would be retired before the end of their scheduled service life, including two littoral combat ships, which have underperformed expectations.

Last spring, before the cap was put in place, the Pentagon had estimated in 2025 it would need about $880 billion, and the total national security budget would be $929 billion.

But because the budget increase is capped at 1 per cent and smaller than expected, there will be less money to spend.

“This request will bolster our ability to defend our country, paced to the challenge posed by an increasingly aggressive People’s Republic of China,” Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“It will better posture us to deter aggression against the United States, or our allies and partners, while also preparing us to prevail in conflict if necessary.”

Updated: March 11, 2024, 8:22 PM