Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said China’s military is developing capabilities at a "stunning" pace.
And, he said, the U.S. military has been hampered by "brutal" bureaucracy.
His comments came Thursday during a Defense Writers Group roundtable and were reported by multiple news outlets.
The Financial Times had reported earlier in October that China "caught U.S. intelligence by surprise" by testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that had flown through space and circled the globe before returning toward its target, missing it by about 20 miles.
According to CNN, Hyten noted the development of hypersonic weapons highlights the different approaches by the U.S. and China.
He pointed out the U.S. has conducted nine hypersonic tests in the last five years, while the "Chinese have done hundreds."
"Single digits versus hundreds is not a good place," Hyten said. "Now it doesn't mean that we're not moving fast in the development process of hypersonics, what it does tell you is that our approach to development is fundamentally different."
The Washington Examiner quoted Hyten as saying: "Calling China a pacing threat is a useful term because the pace at which China is moving is stunning. The pace they're moving and the trajectory they're on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don't do something to change it. It will happen. So I think we have to do something.
"It's not just the United States but the United States and our allies because that's the thing that really changes the game," he added. "If it's the United States only, it's going to be problematic in five years. But if it's the United States and our allies, I think we can be good for a while."
Hyten, who is set to retire in November, urged his yet-to-be named successor to "focus on speed and re-inserting speed back in the process of the Pentagon," CNN said. "Although we're making marginal progress, the Department of Defense is still unbelievably bureaucratic and slow," Hyten said. "We can go fast if we want to but the bureaucracy we put in place is just brutal."
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