As Competition with China Intensifies, Senator Murray Makes Clear: America Cannot Stay Ahead Unless Our Investments Keep Pace
Senator Murray: “China isn’t debating whether to invest in its future, or cut and cap the investments that keep it competitive, and China does not operate on CRs….If we want to stay competitive—if we want to stay ahead—we have to stay the course and build on our investments.”
***WATCH: Senator Murray’s opening remarks***
***WATCH: Senator Murray discusses need to ensure our investments keep pace with Secretaries Austin, Blinken, and Raimondo***
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led a full committee hearing with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to examine President Biden’s budget request in the context of the U.S.-China relationship and discuss the investments needed in the upcoming fiscal year to strengthen America’s security and competitiveness and stay ahead of global competitors like China.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Murray made clear that as countries like China work to overtake the U.S. economically, militarily, and on the world stage, it is imperative that we pursue an all-of-government approach to stay ahead—which means ensuring that our investments also keep pace by passing robust, timely appropriations bills that fund that all-of-government approach.
“Make no mistake: China is pressing forward with an aggressive modernization and expansion of their military capabilities,” said Senator Murray. “We need to ensure the military has the resources it needs to stay ahead of China’s military modernization, strengthen logistical preparedness, expand cyber capabilities, and so much more. However, as the Secretary of Defense has said repeatedly—keeping our nation safe requires a whole-of-government approach.”
Senator Murray warned of the perils of failing to fully fund our government as our competitors press ahead with their own investments—and underscored the need to pass bipartisan funding bills that meet this moment and invest in America’s future.
“We have to make sure we have a regular appropriations process so every Department—including DOD—can plan for the year ahead. We cannot settle for CRs that freeze our progress, result in year-over-year funding cuts, and seriously impair every single one of our agencies’ abilities to fulfill their missions and move our country forward. The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t govern by CRs and cuts—and we can’t either.”
Senator Murray discussed how America’s security, competitiveness, and prosperity depends on our investments in our global leadership, American innovation, research and development, our economy, and our families—as much as on our investments in our military capabilities.
“Keeping our country safe and competitive is not just about defense spending,” said Senator Murray. “Keeping our country safe means investing in diplomacy and development to counter political and economic coercion, promote stability, stand up to autocrats, support our allies, and advance our global leadership instead of ceding ground to the governments of China and Russia.”
“And when it comes to keeping our competitive edge on the world stage, that means investing in American innovation with funding for research and development, advanced manufacturing—like we passed in the CHIPS and Science Act—clean energy jobs, cutting edge biomedical research, emerging technologies—like AI, and so much more,” continued Senator Murray. “And, of course, we cannot be competitive with the Chinese government if we are not investing in the backbone of our economy: working families.”
Importantly, Senator Murray noted that Congress was able to make critical, bipartisan investments in American competitiveness just last year—and discussed how House Republicans’ plan to make severe cuts to these investments would set America back.
“We showed just a few months ago there is bipartisan support for an across-the-board effort to counter the growing influence of China’s Communist Party,” said Senator Murray. “But if we want to stay competitive—if we want to stay ahead—we have to stay the course and build on those investments. Which is why I find the approach House Republicans have called for is so dangerous….After years of bipartisan consensus for maintaining America’s global leadership, this tactic will throw in the towel to our competitors.”
“Let’s be clear,” continued Senator Murray, “China isn’t debating whether to pay its debts, or wreck its economy. China isn’t debating whether to invest in its future, or cut and cap the investments that keep it competitive, and China does not operate on CRs.”
Senator Murray asked Secretaries Austin, Blinken, and Raimondo what failing to build on our investments would mean for their respective department’s missions and national efforts to stay competitive with the Chinese government: “If we do not pass bipartisan spending bills, if we end up flat-lining spending and not making any policy decisions this year, under a continuing resolution—or if we cut non-defense spending back by billions, what can you say in this open setting about the worst impacts and how far it will set us back in our ability to stay competitive with countries like China?”
“As I said before, no amount of money can make up for lost time,” replied Secretary Austin. “As you’ve said, Chair Murray, the PRC’s not waiting. Our budget reflects our strategy … and so without a budget, it’s difficult to execute the strategy as designed. …. It will affect readiness and our ability to build out our infrastructure as well. Specifically what that means: It takes shipbuilding, for example—we could expect a $9.7 billion or so impact to shipbuilding production rate increases. We won’t be able to accomplish those, we won’t be able to award the second contract with a second Columbia-class submarine. We won’t be able to start the production on the Virginia-class submarines. It will delay our ability to get the critical munitions that we need for ourselves and also to support our allies and partners as well …. to name a few things, Chair. And, again, the list is pretty extensive.”
“If we were to end up in that world,” replied Secretary Blinken, “our ability to do things that, on a bipartisan basis, Congress supports—including support for Ukraine and its neighbors, including countering harmful PRC influence and resourcing our Indo-Pacficic strategy, including maintaining our leadership in everything from humanitarian assistance to global food security—we would be severely hindered in doing that. We’d also have real challenges when it comes to the investments that we need to make in security and upgrades—physical and cyber—leaving our personnel, leaving our facilities, leaving our cyber defense, more vulnerable than it otherwise would be. More specifically in this region, and with regard to China, we have in the budget, a number of items that are critical in our judgment to being able to effectively counter China's growing influence in virtually every region of the world. It would reduce our efforts to engage and build the kinds of partnerships we need to push back against that influence to make sure that the United States remains the partner of choice. …. Finally: it’s hard to quantify this. I think we’d be sending a broader message of retreat at the very time when we need to be sending the opposite message around the world.”
“I’d like to very quickly highlight three ways that we would be very significantly impaired in our ability to meet the China challenge,” replied Secretary Raimondo. “First: BIS [Bureau of Industry and Security]. So if we were to go back to 2022 levels, that would be about 125 fewer people in BIS. That’s 125 fewer people to do end-use checks around export controls. Last year, we did 1100 end-use checks in 54 countries—the vast majority related to China. With 125 fewer people, we would not be able to do all we do, and U.S. technology would get into the hands of malign actors in China. ITA [International Trade Administration]—we have foreign commercial service officers in 79 countries all over the world we would have to cut at a time when China is expanding. We wouldn’t be present in Africa and South America in the Indo-Pacific in the way that we want to be. And finally, as it relates to investment, as you said, Senator Murray, we need to invest. NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] has the federal government’s smartest minds around artificial intelligence and cyber. We need to be investing in that. We currently have a billion dollar backlog of deferred maintenance at NIST. At the same time, China is investing in new facilities of their NIST equivalent.”
Lastly, Senator Murray reiterated at Tuesday’s hearing, the importance of passing bipartisan spending bills that invest in American security and competitiveness and her own commitment to ensuring that happens—with the aim of beginning Committee mark ups in June.
“We have to show there is a bipartisan vision to strengthen our nation’s competitiveness and security by investing in American leadership across the board—and a bipartisan will to get it done,” said Senator Murray. “That’s what I’ve been focused on in all our subcommittee hearings… and it’s why I want us to continue our work and mark up bipartisan spending bills soon because bottom line: we find ourselves at a real turning point, and this year’s government spending bills will determine whether or not we are prepared to compete with China, and whether or not we will stay ahead or fall behind.”
Robust funding for the Departments of Defense, State, and Commerce—alongside so many other vital agencies—is indispensable to keep America safe, secure, competitive, and prosperous as our competitors seek to outpace and outcompete us. The President’s FY24 budget request proposes renewed investments in vital initiatives, programs, and responsibilities carried out by the Departments to protect our national security, strengthen our economy, and keep America on the cutting edge.
For the Department of Defense, that includes, among other things, funding necessary to:
- Keep our nation secure, protect the American people and global security, and stand up to aggressors.
- Counter our competitors’ influence—including in the Indo-Pacific, with $9.1 billion for the Pacific Defense Deterrence Initiative to strengthen our deterrence capabilities and increase stability in the region.
- Support Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities and other allies in the Indo-Pacific.
- Continue critical infrastructure investments in the region and invest in our AUKUS partnership.
- $30 billion for munitions to expand production capacity, with a specific focus on supporting Indo-Pacific deterrence efforts.
- Modernize our defense infrastructure and ensuring our investments in research and development keep pace with a $5.2 billion increase in funding.
- Support the servicemembers who keep our country safe—including with a 5.2% pay raise—and investing in recruiting, retaining, and training the best fighting force in the world.
You can find U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s written testimony HERE.
For the Department of State, robust funding—as proposed by the President’s budget request—is critical to:
- Protect U.S. national security and other foreign policy interests through vigorous diplomatic engagement and a robust global presence, which requires investing in and protecting the diplomatic personnel that carry out this critical work.
- Strengthen America’s alliances and partnerships—and building new ones—to make our world more free, secure, open, and prosperous.
- Counter the influence of our competitors, including by expanding our presence in the Indo-Pacific and keeping pace with our competitors’ investments in building new partnerships and supporting global development—with $2 billion proposed over five years to establish an International Infrastructure Fund and $2 billion over five years for the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
- Ensure the U.S. is at the table when international rules are debated and decided to create a fair international system and ensure we don’t cede ground to competitors or aggressors.
- Address pressing global challenges that threaten global security and stability like the climate crisis, migration, food insecurity, public health threats, and more.
- Enable American goods and services to get to market in a fair global trade system.
You can find U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s written testimony HERE.
For the Department of Commerce, robust investments mean funding essential agencies and programs to:
- Spur American innovation and invention, including by investing in the scientific research and development—carried out with partners like the National Science Foundation—that has helped make America the global leader in innovation and is critical to ensuring it remains as much.
- Ensure effective implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act to turbocharge American semiconductor research and manufacturing and maintain our technological and scientific edge.
- Strengthen America’s manufacturing capacity and maintain its edge in advanced manufacturing, including through the work of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Create a level playing field by promoting fair trade practices and protecting American innovators’ intellectual property at the International Trade Administration and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Improve our supply chain resiliency.
- Help American businesses of all sizes do business with the rest of the world.
- Protect U.S. technologies, capital, and expertise through effective export controls and treaty compliance at the Bureau of Industry and Security.
- Train and develop the workforce needed to win the future.
You can find U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s written testimony HERE.
You can find Senator Murray’s full opening remarks HERE.
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