WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Gen. Mark A. Milley believes the Army needs more Soldiers, but he also believes that growth in end strength must be paired with funding that ensures those additional Solders are trained and equipped.

"We the Army think that our capacity needs to increase," the chief of staff of the Army said Thursday at a breakfast hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army. "We think our capability … and we think our readiness [need] to increase. And we fully understand that's an expensive proposition for the U.S. Army."

The recent National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 puts the Army at an end strength of 476,000 Soldiers by Sept. 30, 2017.

"If we just get additional people or additional end strength, but we don't have the money, then that leads you down the road to a hollow force," Milley said. "If you increase the end strength, you have to increase the money to go with the end strength to pay for the readiness."

More people would likely be put into operational units, he said, if the Army could obtain the funding to ensure they are ready to fight. Some, he said, can go to the institutional Army, but right now combat units are undermanned.

"Units going to training sometimes are down around 80 percent or, in some cases, even lower," Milley said. "Which is not good."

Milley said he has a list of priorities for the next presidential budget. While he declined to specify exactly what's on that list, he offered hints. Air defense and ground mobility, for instance, are top priorities for the Army, he said.

The Army must increase the ground mobility capabilities of its light units, Milley said. And aviation, he said, remains "very vulnerable" against a near-peer threat.

"It's one thing to fight guerrillas and terrorists where you have almost exclusive freedom of the air, freedom of action of the air," he said. "But it's another thing to fight some near-peer ... threats. So protection of our aviation is a big deal."

A variety of initiatives are already underway to protect rotary wing aviation and extend their range, he said.

Also among his priorities are electronic warfare and nontraditional kinetic weapons like rail guns and lasers, he said, though he admitted that's "years from now."

Extending the range for a variety of the Army's firing platforms, "specifically artillery, both rocket and tube artillery" is also under consideration.

In the past, Milley has publically described his vision of the future of warfare that he believes the Army must be prepared to fight. According to his vision, that includes degraded communications environments where units may be out of contact with their leadership for days or weeks at a time.

Under these conditions, units of the future must be capable of operating on their own. They must be trusted to know their mission and their goals and how to achieve them.

In preparing for the future of warfare, he said, the development of command and control systems must also be a priority.

"The probability of us having the freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum that we have enjoyed for the last 15 years of war, for example, against terrorists, the probability of that happening against a near-peer is zero," he said. "You're just not going to have that kind of freedom of action."

Included among the systems that could face threat during near-peer competition in the electromagnetic spectrum are radios, GPS and other position, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems.

"All that stuff is dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum, and the electromagnetic spectrum will come under significant stress," he said.

The Army is making advances on strategies to protect PNT systems and developing mission-command systems that are mobile, he assured his audience.

"We're not going to be static against a near-peer competitor like we've been for the last 15 years," he said. The Army is looking to implement "systems that can move, that are hardened and protected and are resilient and reliable in high-paced, fast maneuver combat operations."