March 22 (UPI) -- The Defense Department's push to achieve hypersonic weapons should better define the roles and duties of those in leadership, a government report published Monday says.
The Government Accountability Office noted that the development of hypersonic weapons and related technologies has cost about $14 billion since it started in 2015, through 70 identified efforts.
The Defense Department, with support from the Department of Energy and NASA, is responsible for nearly the entire amount.
The 54-page report, sent to members of Congress in January but released on Monday, suggests that the Pentagon should clarify roles and responsibilities to ensure coordination across development efforts.
Hypersonic missiles can travel at up to five times the speed of sound and use unpredictable flight paths as they travel to targets.
China and Russia have also invested heavily in the weapons, and in October 2020, Russia announced the successful test-firing of its Zircon hypersonic missile, which it said struck a target 300 miles away after traveling at over 6,100 mph.
The U.S. military plans to field offensive hypersonic weapons by the early- to mid-2020s, the Pentagon announced in February.
A layered system for defense against hypersonic weapons is then expected by the mid-to-late-2020s and reusable hypersonic systems by the early- tomid-2030s.
The report acknowledges that offensive and defensive hypersonic weapons have emerged as a Defense Department priority, but notes that dozens of DoD agencies are at work on the effort -- and that effective coordination and guidance are lacking.
It calls for a "formalization for hypersonics" to avoid breakdowns in direction in the next decade, and enhanced "opportunities to leverage the various efforts to develop such weapons."
GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense should define the responsibilities of those in leadership, noting that the Defense Department concurred with the assessment.