WASHINGTON -- Army and Marine Corps officials stressed to lawmakers Wednesday the urgency in modernizing ground forces amid an increasingly challenging security environment.

"We are at an inflection point, and we can no longer afford to choose between near-term readiness and modernization," Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, the Army's deputy chief of staff for programs, told the House Armed Services Committee's tactical air and land forces subcommittee.

The development of new capabilities has been slowed, deferred, and in some cases halted due to the Army's focus on the demands of ongoing campaigns, combined with constrained resources and an industrial age organizational model, Murray said.

"Meanwhile, our adversaries have or are quickly attaining a competitive advantage," he said.

Murray appeared before the panel with Army Lt. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology; Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration and commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command.

INVESTMENTS TO RESTORE MILITARY

The Army and Marine Corps leaders welcomed lawmakers' support for defense spending, saying the president's fiscal year 2018 budget and the fiscal year 2019 budget request seek to restore the military after years of decline.

The investments, they said, support the National Defense Strategy and aim to build a more lethal and agile force.

"The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one under the most difficult of circumstances," the Marine generals said in their written statement, adding that this requires "new operational concepts, an aggressive approach to force development and a consistent, multiyear investment to restore warfighting readiness."

MODERNIZATION FOCUS

The Army, Murray said, plans in fiscal year 2019 to selectively upgrade equipment that is critical to near-term readiness and focus on areas crucial to combat. Those areas, he told the panel, include long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air missile defense, and Soldier lethality.

For the last several decades, the Army possessed overmatch based on its qualitative edge in capabilities, Murray and Ostrowski said in their written statement.

"It enabled our Army to defeat enemy formations, underpinned credible deterrence, and served as a critical pillar of joint force capabilities in all domains -- air, land, maritime, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum," they said.

"Now, a combination of strategic, technological, institutional and budgetary trends places at risk the Army's competitive edge over near-peer adversaries in the next fight," they warned.

Walsh outlined priorities for the Marine Corps for fiscal year 2019 as information warfare, long-range precision fires, air defense command and control in a degraded environment, protecting mobility and enhanced maneuver, and supporting the defense secretary's priorities to increase lethality, resilience, agility and to build a flexible and dynamic force.

"The Marine Corps' ground programs modernization strategy will ensure the individual Marine enjoys a qualitative military edge over any adversary," Walsh and Shrader said in their written statement, adding that the goal is to adequately equip the Marine to ensure "combat formations capable of closing with and destroying the enemy."