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Pentagon budget 2024: Chinese balloon incident prompts last-minute ISR investment

A Chinese surveillance balloon flies above in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the United States on 4 February 2023. The incursion prompted the US Department of Defense to include USD90 million in last-minute ISR investments in its FY 2024 budget proposal. (Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The fallout from the detection and eventual shoot-down of a Chinese high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) balloon operating in US airspace prompted several last-minute changes in the US Department of Defense (DoD) budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2024.

Roughly USD90 million has been requested to finance future initiatives to better prepare US armed forces to protect against similar threats, said US Navy Vice Admiral Sara Joyner during a DoD briefing on the Pentagon's FY 2024 spending proposal, released on 13 March.

“I will tell you today that our sensors are capable of seeing high-altitude balloons and capable of tracking them, but it is a matter [of] tuning and optimising those systems to try and get after all forms of intrusions into our airspace,” said Vice Adm Joyner, who serves as the director of Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment on the Joint Staff.

“We did add some funding late in the [budget] process ... specifically on what I would call sensing and analysis” to address potential threats, similar to the one posed by the Chinese balloon in terms of ISR capability and operational altitude, DoD Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters during the same briefing. The FY 2024 funds have been set aside to “refine some [detection and mitigation] capabilities on the back end” of the ISR sensing and detection mission for homeland defence, McCord said.

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