On Wednesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950, using the measure to direct civilian industry's production of hypersonic weapons components.
"I hereby determine, pursuant to section 303(a)(5) of the Act, that the industrial base production capability for ultra-high and high temperature composites for hypersonic, strategic missile, and space launch systems is essential to the national defense," Trump said in the directive.
"Without Presidential action under section 303 of the Act, United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for ultra-high and high temperature composites for hypersonic, strategic missile, and space launch systems adequately and in a timely manner," the order continues. "Further, purchases, purchase commitments, or other action pursuant to section 303 of the Act are the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical alternative method for meeting the need for this critical capability."
While Russia and China have developed the Mach 5-capable weapons, the US does not yet have an operational hypersonic weapon. The missiles are so fast and maneuverable, they are believed to be invulnerable to anti-air defenses and very difficult to spot through traditional ballistic missile detection methods.
Last month, after Trump boasted of a "super duper missile" under development, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman tweeted the US was "working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries."
While the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) was canceled in February in a budget battle, its developer, Lockheed Martin, is pushing ahead with another hypersonic weapon, the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).
Throughout the national crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump had used the Defense Production Act to direct civilian industries in the production of necessary medical equipment, such as swabs, ventilators, masks and other protective gear.
On June 13, 2017, Trump also invoked the Defense Production Act, saying that "critical technology items affecting aerospace structures and fibers, radiation-hardened microelectronics, radiation test and qualification facilities, and satellite components and assemblies are critical to national defense."