Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defense industry CEOs Thursday in an effort to accelerate hypersonic weapons development.
WASHINGTON — Top Pentagon officials and defense industry executives huddled on hypersonic weapons development this week, marking a new level of attention to the area.
But experts say the fiscal 2023 budget will be the true test of whether the U.S. Department of Defense is serious about building the necessary momentum to deliver hypersonic capabilities on a faster timeline.
The unclassified meeting, convened Thursday by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and attended by more than a dozen defense CEOs, was largely centered around gathering industry feedback on the impediments to speeding up development of hypersonic capabilities, according to an official readout of the meeting.
The conversation was mostly led by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made an appearance toward the end, offering prepared remarks focused on the importance of the capability and the need to go fast to outpace China’s progress on hypersonic weapons, according to the readout.
Executives detailed a range of concerns, including supply chain constraints, acquisition barriers, budget instability and access to test facilities, with participants emphasizing that without suitable testing facilities, the department will struggle to truly adopt a “test often, fail fast and learn” development approach.
Meetings between defense secretaries and groups of industry executives are so uncommon that the high-level meeting alone signals the Pentagon’s deep urgency to develop hypersonic weapons. Steven Grundman, a former Pentagon industrial policy chief now with the Atlantic Council, likened it to then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin’s 1993 gathering to force defense industry leaders to consolidate their firms.
“Maybe there have been three occasions like that in a quarter century, so if the secretary of all defense asks the captains of industry to come to his office and talk about something important to him, that’s a very important indicator right there,” Grundman said.
Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson echoed Grundman’s comments, noting the meeting makes clear Austin “embraces the high priority being assigned to the weapons.”
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Footnote from Michael Julien
It is surprising that this meeting was not held before given the reports by the BBC and others of tests by North Korea of hypersonic weapons. See this article in pdf or go to the BBC website using this link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-59958664
Here is the title of the BBC report dated 12.01.22:
"North Korea says Kim Jong-un oversaw third hypersonic missile test"
Here is the pdf file.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defense industry CEOs Thursday in an effort to accelerate hypersonic weapons development. (Alex Brandon/AP)