The United States joint force is at an inflection point, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today.
The joint forces "must balance current operations' readiness with future modernization, and must not allow ourselves to create the false trap that we can either modernize or focus only on today: We must do both," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The U.S. military must fully integrate developing technologies, including precision long-range fires, hypersonic weapons, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and pervasive all-domain sensors. "The time is now, and we have very little margin to waste," the general said.
The chairman essentially told the committee not to rob Peter to pay Paul. The U.S. joint force today is "the most lethal and capable military in the world," he said. "Our troops are the best lead, best equipped and best trained force anywhere because of your support."
The U.S. military must be ready to fight and win in all domains of conflict, the chairman said. This idea is at the heart of all deterrence. "Our priorities are simple: Maintain high states of readiness while simultaneously modernizing for the future operating environment and taking care of our people and their families," he said. "Our end-state is that America is secure, and great power war is prevented. Readiness now and readiness in the future through modernization is our No. 1 priority. And there is no other No. 1."
Milley said the international rules-based structure that has kept great power peace since the end of World War II is under stress. "For the first time in the nation's history, the United States is facing two major nuclear powers whose vital national security interests are in competition with the United States," he said. "Both the People's Republic of China and Russia have the means to threaten our interests and our way of life. But war with Russia or China is neither inevitable nor imminent."
The fiscal 2024 defense budget request "is driven by our strategy and deters war. This budget maintains our capabilities," the general said. "It maintains our strengths, our high levels of readiness now, and it prepares us for the future."
China is the pacing challenge. "The PRC intends to be the regional hegemon in the western Pacific and Asia within the next 10 years and exceed the United States' overall military capability by 2049," Milley said.
Russia is an acute threat and remains dangerous, he said. Russia's illegal and unprovoked war against Ukraine threatens peace on the European continent and global stability. "We are supporting Ukraine and its fight to protect its sovereignty and supporting our NATO allies with the United States forward presence in every single nation on NATO's eastern flank," he said. "This fight is not just in Ukraine's interest, it is in the U.S. interest to protect the system that has prevented great power war for eight decades."
Iran continues to disturb the peace in the Middle East by continuing its support for terrorists and proxy forces. "Also, Iran is taking actions to improve its capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon," the general said. "The United States remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a fielded, nuclear weapon. And we, the United States military, have developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if, or when, Iran ever decides to develop an actual nuclear weapon."
Milley told the lawmakers that U.S. military operational readiness rates are higher now than they've been in many years. "There are 10,330 units in the United States military, with 4,680 of them are active duty," he said. "Sixty percent of our active-duty force is at the highest states of readiness right now and could deploy to combat in less than 30 days; 10 percent could deploy to combat in less than 96 hours.
"This military is ready," Milley said. "We are prepared to fight now, and we will continue to be prepared to fight in the future."