The chief of staff of the U.S. Army says his troops must have a "laser-focused sense of urgency" on military preparedness, a day after the defense secretary told troops "to be ready" with military options to deal with North Korea.
Speaking at the U.S. Army's annual conference (AUSA) Tuesday, General Mark Milley said improving readiness must be his military service branch's top task, calling the present day an "inflection point in history."
"It has never been more important than it is today," Milley said in Washington. "We are more prepared today and a better Army for our efforts, but we are not there yet."
Milley said the Army must continue to grow its numbers, develop a large-scale urban combat training center and streamline acquisition processes, while improving technologies in cyber, combat simulation and robotics.
He also pushed Congress to pass a budget so the military can move forward with strengthening its force, noting if the U.S. military doesn't adapt to changes in the global threat, it will lose the next war.
"Preparation for war is very expensive," Milley told troops. "But preparation for war is much cheaper than fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting and losing a war."
Milley's comments come a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. relationship with North Korea remains a diplomatic one, but that the military must be prepared in case the situation breaks down.
Speaking at the conference Monday, Mattis noted the effort to turn North Korea off its nuclear path is currently "diplomatically led" and buttressed by economic sanctions.
"What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the U.S. Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed," Mattis said.
Tensions with North Korea have escalated since the start of the year due to a series of missile launches from North Korea and a nuclear test last month.
The U.S. has responded to these acts with military shows of force in international and allied air space. Last month, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-16 fighter jets flew the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft had flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century.
American President Donald Trump has engaged in weeks of taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling the dictator "Rocket Man" and saying the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea, if necessary, to protect itself and its allies if Pyongyang attacks.