HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- "We need to move faster."

Those words, from Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin, highlighted his challenge to the defense professionals gathered at the Von Braun Center's North Hall Aug. 8 for the 2018 Space and Missile Defense Symposium Dinner. While their work might be cutting-edge, it also has a deadline - and China is hot on their heels, Griffin warned.

As undersecretary Griffin is the department's chief technology officer, and oversees the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, the Strategic Capabilities Office, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the DOD Laboratory enterprise, and oversees a team tasked with developing the military's advanced technology and capability, or as Griffin put it, he is "in charge of the future force" of the nation's defense.

Griffin said that in an attempt to minimize risk, the U.S. has slowed down its efficiency to a point that China is now moving ahead in productivity, putting that future force in jeopardy.

"This is a country who knows how to do things and has people who know how to do things that have never been done before, and most of the time, to succeed ... why are we not doing it today because the need is very great," Griffin said.

Griffin pointed to the recent launching of a Chinese hypersonic test and how the United States pioneered the technology, but the Chinese weaponized it first.

"The ability of the United States ... to accomplish things quickly was the envy of the world - and now we are watching," he said.

Griffin said that what is slowing down the U.S. is that "we have gotten mired down in the process," and his answer to that drew an audible response from the crowd.

"I am here tonight to ask all of you as teammates - I might be the head coach but you all are on the team - and for the two and a half years I have remaining as a political appointee, I will be asking you every chance I get to look at what you are doing and find ways to either eliminate it or shortcut it because most of what you are doing by definition, is not value-added."

Griffin acknowledged that it was blunt, but when the Chinese are testing on calendars of months versus the United States' calendars of years, it is crucial to find ways to work faster to ensure authority and control over the space sector.

"(Space) will be a human domain and it will be under control by some piece of human society," he said.

"We and our partners in western civilization have spent the last 500 years together and singly creating (our values). Those values are fragile. Most societies in most of the world at most times have not shared them. A significant portion of human society today does not share those values. ... If we do not make sure that we have control of the space domain, other societies will and I submit that the result will not be one that you will like."