Gen. Joseph Dunford—the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and highest uniformed military official—said the Department of Defense needs a “three to five percent real growth over inflation to meet both the capability and capacity requirements” in an event at the Brookings Institution on May 29.

President Donald Trump’s FY2020 budget proposal of $750 billion for defense is in line with the growth Gen. Dunford said the forces need.

“The stable and adequate levels of funding [of the last four years] … has to continue for several more years in order for us to address that competitive advantage issue,” Gen. Dunford said.

Gen. Dunford said the three to five percent real growth estimate is based on a classified study that analyzes the U.S. in comparison to other peer competitors in relation to 14 competitive areas—including maritime domain, cyber capabilities, space capabilities, electronic warfare, etc.

“We’ve looked at the trajectory of capabilities development of our peer competitors. We’ve made judgments in conjunction with the intelligence community about where they’ll be in the mid [20]20s,” he said. “We’ve looked at where we are today, and where we would need to be to maintain an acceptable competitive advantage.”

Despite calls by the Air Force and Navy to grow force capacity by 25%, Gen. Dunford said if the budget doesn’t meet that three to five percent growth over inflation that the services should prioritize capability over capacity.

“I would make sure every unit that we have actually has the level of readiness to meet its requirements and and I wouldn’t grow the force in a way that exceeds what we predict is going to be sustainable,” he said. “And in my mind, the quality over quantity would be the most important thing I would recommend.”