The “good” news from an S&T perspective: the Biden Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 defense budget request includes major investments for the services’ training and education programs. The “not so good” news: these budget lines are competing for their fair share of the budget with high-visibility “big ticket” programs. 

The White House is requesting $842 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Pentagon in FY24, a $26B (3.2%) increase from FY23. While the budget request does not quite provide a bonanza for the DoD training and education enterprise, the document delivered to the US Congress on 9 March contains significant new and increased funding levels for programs that would strengthen individual, unit and staff training readiness. 

Of great interest to S&T industry stakeholders is this early commitment to fund training and education activities across the live, virtual and constructive (LVC) domains, enhance training ranges and other infrastructure, and make similar investments. Randomly selected budget lines from Pentagon documents are highlighted here.      

More S&T – the Army Way   

Engagement and forward presence are important linchpins of the 2022 National Defense Strategy. To that end, the FY24 budget request provides healthy doses of funding for the services to complete live training events in a joint and combined context around the globe, enhancing individual, unit and staff readiness levels, and for technology-based programs.

In one effort to sharpen the focus on enhanced Army Readiness, the White House is requesting funding for 22 Combat Training Center rotations: eight at National Training Center; eight at Joint Readiness Training Center; four at Joint Multinational Readiness Center, the first combat training center in Indo-Pacific; and two Exportable rotations in the Pacific.

Beyond service-specific training readiness, the budget request increases Joint interoperability exercises (with other US defense and government organizations) and builds capabilities of partners and allies through training in major exercises around the globe: Pacific Pathways, Defender Europe, African Lion, and Arctic Edge. More to point, the Army’s budget briefing documents note that its planned robust worldwide exercise program will support more than 140,000 soldiers training and more than “115 exercises worldwide, including 33 exercises in the Indo-Pacific.”

On the technology side of the S&T ledger, the service may see a possible reduction in one Army Modernization Strategy component, the Synthetic Training Environment. Whereas enacted FY23 funding was $495 million, the FY24 request decreases to $427M. This request may sail into headwinds from increasingly technology-savvy House and Senate committees members holding the service’s purse strings.   

Sea Services’ S&T Expenditure Survey

One significant S&T budget highlight is the US Marine Corps’ commitment to step up its investments across its training and education portfolio, indeed, dramatically advancing training transformation as outlined in the recent document Training & Education 2030 https://www. Force Design 2030 pillar funding for training and education continues its upward trajectory, from $354M and $531M, enacted in FYs 22 and 23 respectively, to $581M requested for FY24. Four representative FY24 investment focal points are: $20M for range and training area management; $14M for force-on-force training systems; $14M for Marine Air-Ground Task Force Training Command; and $9M for specialized skills training    

Building on the geopolitical trend tracked in MS&T, the Navy-Marine Corps will remain “on the tip of the spear” in engagement activities with US friends and allies around the globe. In the very broad, increasing Pacific Deterrence Initiative, $3.2B is marked to expand US training ranges and capabilities in the region and enhance the forward-deployed USMC III Marine Expeditionary Force operations and flying hours. The European Deterrence Initiative fully funds US European Command requirements for naval assets to support bi-/multi-lateral military exercises.

Air Force Training Aircraft Turbulence 

Two major storylines emerged in this budget request for the Air Force’s training aircraft inventory. 

As part of a major effort to retire legacy aircraft across the service aviation enterprise, the Air Force will retire more than 52 T-1A Jayhawks. The aircraft is a medium-range, twin-engine jet trainer used in the advanced phase of specialized undergraduate pilot training for students. The Jayhawk’s value proposition has decreased as the service increasingly relies on simulation for its pilot training.

The air service has also decided to defer buying the first annual lot of the production version of the Boeing T-7A Red Hawk. Due to materiel issues during the early acquisition phase, low-rate initial production now appears to begin in FY25. The Air Force plans to buy 351 T-7As, including the first five test aircraft. 

S&T Meets the Competition

This March 13, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III noted, "The FY 2024 budget is the most strategy-driven request we've ever produced from the Department of Defense.” As such, “this budget makes the Department's largest-ever investments in readiness and procurement – and our largest investment in research and development.” 

For S&T investments in the FY24 budget to emerge intact after the Congressional authorization and appropriations processes, these and myriad other budget lines will compete with well-publicized, big-ticket programs to support US aid to Ukraine and modernization to allow US forces to win against peer competitor China. One representative cornerstone in this budget request includes $61.1B for air power to continue developing, modernizing, and procuring air forces, including a focus on fighters (F-22, F-35, F-15EX, the B-21 bomber), mobility aircraft, including KC-46A; specialized support aircraft; and unmanned aircraft systems.

MS&T will follow and report on the FY24 US DoD budget as it emerges from Congressional deliberations later this fall for President Biden’s signature.