The United States’ ability to develop military technologies is being hamstrung by a “brutal” bureaucracy with a risk-averse culture which is preventing it from adequately countering China’s arms development, according to the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking officer.
“The pace [China is] moving and the trajectory that they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it,” said Gen. John Hyten, outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Defense Writers Group meeting on Oct. 28.
“It will happen.”
Bureaucracy Stunting Military Development
Hyten, who is soon due to retire, lamented the slow turnaround time for research and development in the U.S. military. He noted that the average time he expected new projects to take was 10-15 years. That process goes even longer at times if there is cause for significant oversight, he said.
To put the pace in perspective, Hyten compared U.S. efforts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during the Cold War with similar efforts today.
During the 1960s, Hyten said, the United States researched, developed, and deployed some 800 rockets in just under five years during a push to counter similar development by the Soviet Union.
The United States’ current efforts to develop its next generation of ICBMs, on the other hand, began in 2015, and the weapons are not expected to be fully operational until 2035.
“We can go fast if we want to,” Hyten said. “But the bureaucracy we’ve put in place is just brutal.”
Hyten underscored that the dangers posed by such bureaucracy were becoming more clear and more imminent. He told reporters that the United States conducted nine hypersonic weapons tests in the last five years. China, meanwhile, conducted hundreds.
“Single digits versus hundreds is not a good place,” Hyten said.
Hypersonic missiles are a new type of weapon that is both fast and maneuverable. With a maneuverable trajectory not confined to a fixed parabolic arc of a ballistic missile, they can evade current missile defense systems.