FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Despite weathering several years of fiscal uncertainty, the state of the Army's formations has improved, and if called upon today it is certain to prevail in any conflict, said the service's secretary.

Additionally, Congress has stopped a steep, lengthy decline in Army capabilities with implementation of the president's fiscal year 2018 budget, said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. Both Milley and Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill before the Senate Appropriations Committee for Defense.

"The Army is on the mend. I can report out to you today, after two and a half years as the chief of staff of the Army, we are in significantly better shape than we were just a short time ago," Milley said. "And that is through the generosity of this Congress and the American people."

Moving forward, Army senior leaders are seeking congressional backing for a $182.1 billion budget for FY 2019. That new budget is an eight percent increase over the total FY 2018 president's budget.

Helping the Army maintain overmatch and increase lethality from now and into the future will require "predictable, adequate, sustained, and timely funding," said Milley.

"The National Defense Strategy has identified China and Russia as the principal competitors against which we must build sufficient capacity and capabilities," Esper told lawmakers. "Both countries are taking a more aggressive role on the world stage, and others possess or are building advanced capabilities that are specifically designed to reverse the tactical overmatch we have enjoyed for decades."

The Army's FY 2019 budget request includes $148.4 billion in the base budget and $33.7 billion for overseas contingency operations. The increased funding will continue to cultivate readiness across all formations in preparation for a high-intensity conflict with a near-peer adversary. It also focuses on the development of the future force through critical modernization efforts, according to the Army's senior leaders.

"[The FY 2019 budget] will assure our allies. It will deter our enemies. It will allow us to compete effectively, and if necessary, it allows us to defeat our enemies on a field of battle," Milley said.

Milley also told lawmakers that the Army knows it must maintain faith with the American people by being good stewards of the tax dollars it receives to conduct its missions.

"We will enforce accountability to make effective use of every single dollar," Milley said. "[Congressional] support for the FY 2019 budget will ensure our Soldiers remain ready to fight, not only tonight but also tomorrow."

READINESS

The Army is on track to reach it total force readiness recovery goals by 2022, providing there is no request to increase the demand for land forces, according to written testimony submitted to the committee by both Esper and Milley.

"We are growing the Army by both recruiting and retaining physically fit, mentally tough Soldiers without lowering standards," the two leaders wrote in the their submitted testimony. "Increased end strength has enabled the Army to fill manning shortfalls in key formations. Soldiers within the ranks are also increasingly deployable, with a four percent decrease in Regular Army non-deployable rates over the past year, and an overall goal of a five percent non-deployable rate by FY 2021."

The Army is also refocusing all Soldier training to become more lethal and more resilient on the future battlefield, Esper said. Home-station training will continue to increase, giving formations more repetition at the company level and below. Furthermore, the Army is reducing self-imposed mandatory training requirements and eliminating excessive reporting.

Additionally, a key component to the Army's readiness initiative includes a broader strategy to work "by, with, and through" partner nations, Milley said. Security Force Assistance Brigades are necessary to help "teach, mentor, train, advise, assist, and enable," partner forces to help reconcile with the enemy and provide stability in the region.

The first SFAB deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2018. In turn, the Army is requesting congressional support to man, train, and equip six SFABs -- five in the regular Army and one in the Army National Guard -- to deliver an enhanced capability of advisors to partner nations, the general added.

MODERNIZATION

Over the past decade of fiscal uncertainty, Army leaders were forced to make many difficult but necessary decisions, prolonging Army modernization efforts.

"We upgraded current weapons systems rather than acquire new or next-generation technologies. However, we can no longer afford to delay modernization without risking overmatch on future battlefields," Army leaders said.

"The Army is now increasing its investments in modernizing the force," Esper said. "Our modernization strategies focus on one goal -- making our Soldiers and units far more lethal and effective than any other adversary. The establishment of the Army Futures Command this summer is the best example of our commitment to the future lethality of the force."

Within their written testimony, Esper and Milley outlined several vital focus areas within the Army's six modernization priorities and eight cross-functional teams:

-- Long Range Precision Fires: The Army seeks to modernize a cannon for extended range, volume, and increased missile capabilities. Systems like the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, which has been accelerated to FY 2023, and the Long Range Precision Fires Missile, accelerated to FY 2021, protect and ensure freedom of maneuver to forces in contact with the enemy in deep, close, and rear operations.

The Army has included $73.7 million for Long Range Precision Fires in the FY 2018 enhancement request, with $22 million in additional requested funds in the FY 2019 president's budget.

-- Next Generation of Combat Vehicles: The Army is currently developing prototypes that lead to the replacement of its current fleet of infantry fighting vehicles, and tanks, in manned, unmanned, and optionally manned variants. A next-generation vehicle is needed to enhance Soldier protection, increase mobility, and make Army forces even more lethal.

Prototypes for both manned and robotic vehicles will arrive in FY 2021, with $13.1 million requested in the FY 2018 enhancement, and $84 million in the FY 2019 president's budget.

-- Future Vertical Lift: The Army seeks to incorporate manned, unmanned, and optionally manned variant vertical lift platforms that provide superior speed, range, endurance, altitude, and payload capabilities. This includes the Future Unmanned Aircraft System, which is undergoing experimentation and will be prototyped in FY 2024, and the Modular Open System Approach, a software prototype that has been accelerated from FY 2028 to FY 2026.

Additionally, $25.1 million is included in the FY 2018 enhancement request for Future Vertical Lift, with additional funds included in the FY 2019 president's budget.

-- Network: The Army seeks to develop expeditionary infrastructure solutions to fight reliably, on the move, in any environment. The Army Network should incorporate electronic warfare; resilient, secure, and interoperable hardware; software and information systems; assured position, navigation, and timing; and low signature networks.

In regards to the Army's previous Warrior Information Network-Tactical system, Milley indicated that the force is implementing a "halt, fix, and pivot" strategy.

"We determined that the network that was built for the Army was focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, [and] worked for fixed sites but was not capable of holding up in a future conflict," Milley said. "So we halted those pieces of that system that would not survive beyond a fixed site type of location against a low-intensity conflict. We're aiming to fix the capabilities that we think we can harvest and use for the future fight. For the pivot, we're exploring commercial technologies. We believe that's the path ... to ensure that we continue to upgrade our networks, [and] gain and sustain the capabilities at the pace of commercial technology development."

An additional $180 million is included in the FY 2018 enhancement request to conduct network related experimentation next fiscal year, including an Infantry Brigade at the Joint Readiness Training Center this summer, and a Stryker Brigade by early 2019.

-- Air and Missile Defense: To ensure the Army's formations are protected from modern and advanced air and missile delivered fires, including drones -- the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team is focusing on capabilities that include Mobile Short-Range Air Defense with directed energy and advanced energetics. The Army has also accelerated the fielding of existing air defense capabilities over the coming years.

-- Soldier Lethality: The force is working to develop the next generation of individual and squad weapons; improve body armor, sensors, and radios; and develop a synthetic training environment that simulates the modern battlefield.

The FY 2018 enhancement request includes $81 million to experiment and procure Enhanced Night Vision Goggles by FY 2021.

"Army Futures Command gets a lot of the attention for good reasons," Esper said. "One of the key aspects of it is to make sure that it presents a different face toward the private sector -- not just the traditional defense vendors -- but also nontraditional defense suppliers, small business, entrepreneurs, [and] academia. We [want to] tap into that talent wherever it may be, to make sure that we maximize every dollar we get to put it back into our Soldiers."