Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Army must continue to improve and evolve to face ever-changing threats.


Mattis said the Army is the greatest in the world, but it must adapt to emerging domains in space and cyberwarfare and new weapons.

"We have to make sure we aren't dominant and irrelevant at the same time," he said.

Citing Iran's support of terrorism in the Middle East, North Korea's saber-rattling in the Pacific, and Russian meddling in US elections, Mattis said the international threats facing the nation were the most complex and demanding than he has seen in decades of service.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

He said the Army was facing new challenges overseas and at home, where budget constraints continue to hinder planning and modernization.

Mattis said he has confidence in Congress to do what is best for the country, but no confidence in the automatic budget cuts it created several years ago.

"I want Congress back in the driver seat of budget decisions, not the spectator seat of automatic cuts," he said.

Mattis was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony of the annual meeting and exposition of the Association of the United States Army, which began Oct. 9 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2017. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

The three-day event brings together defense industry leaders, high-ranking Army officials, and others for professional development and discussions on the Army's role in national defense. More than 26,000 attendees preregistered this year, along with representatives from 70 nations.

Mattis reiterated the remarks of other defense leaders who have stressed that the Army's priority is readiness.

He said the Army must be striving to improve itself, "assuming every week in the Army is a week to get better."

"We need you at the top of your game in body, mind, and spirit," Mattis said.

The former Marine Corps general said the Army could look to the past when preparing for the future.

Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division stand ready with their unit guidons during the All American Week Airborne Review at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 25, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Hewitt.

Abrams is the commanding general of US Army Forces Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg. The command is the largest in the nation, charged with preparing forces for combat commanders around the globe.

"Our job as professionals is to be ready now," Abrams said. "I hope no one is mistaken, we are not in an interwar period."

In the afternoon, Abrams is to participate in another discussion, during a forum titled, "Ready Now."

He'll be part of a panel that also will include Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division; and Col. Christopher Norrie, chief of the operations group at the National Training Center.