What is the Future of Aerospace: From the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry

What is the Future of Aerospace? From the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry By Fred Workley Fred Workley The Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry has issued a final report. The report outlines...


Partnerships and interconnectedness are keys to competitiveness. Government, industry, labor, and academia play different, but important, roles in developing and deploying new aerospace products and services. They cannot perform these roles separately and in isolation. But, cultural and institutional biases hinder the ability to partner and achieve national goals. What is needed is an environment and the incentives that will foster private/public partnerships.

The Commission recommended that the federal government establish a national aerospace policy and promote aerospace by creating a government-wide management structure. This would include a White House policy coordinating council, aerospace management office in the OMB, and a joint committee in Congress along with an annual budget to fund the initiatives.

6. Global markets
Open global markets are critical to the continued economic health of U.S. aerospace companies and to U.S. national security. In order to remain global leaders, U.S. companies must remain at the forefront of technology development. They must also have access to global customers, suppliers, and partners in order to achieve economies of scale in production needed to integrate that technology into their products and services.

The Commission recommended that U.S. and multilateral regulations and policies be reformed to enable the movement of products and capital across international borders on a fully competitive basis, and establish a level playing field for U.S. industry in the global market place. U.S. export control regulations must be substantially overhauled, evolving from current restrictions on technologies through the review of transactions to controls on key capabilities enforced through process controls.

7. Business: The aerospace sector
For the aerospace industry to be globally preeminent, now and in the future, it must be able to attract vitally needed capital at a reasonable cost. The defense and aerospace sector is viewed as a low growth industry with low margins, unstable revenue, and a capricious major customer, the government. Without a significant change in the business model, the future of the aerospace industry, so critical to our national economic and homeland security, is uncertain and at risk.

"Major challenges include the need for dramatic personnel and training reform and recognition of the dynamic interrelated global environment. Government and industry should work together to develop and implement training and exchange programs that would educate and expose their workforces to those challenges and responsibilities. All government officials with budget and program acquisition, management, or review responsibilities, both appointed and elected, should be required to have a business or financial background or training."

The Commission recommended a new business model, driven by increased and sustained government investment and the adoption of innovative government and industry policies that stimulate the flow of capital into new and established public and private companies on a global basis.

8. Workforce
There is a major workforce crisis in the aerospace industry: The nation has lost more than 600,000 scientific and technical aerospace jobs in the past 13 years. This trend began as a result of reduced defense spending following the Cold War. This led to an industry shift from a dependence on defense sales to commercial markets. Increased competition in the commercial aerospace market has led to contractions in the industry, resulting in mergers and acquisitions. Job losses from this consolidation have been compounded by the cyclical nature of the industry.

Due to these uncertainties, most of the workers who have lost their jobs are unlikely to return to the industry. These losses represent a devastating loss of skill, experience, and intellectual capital to the industry.

Industry, government, and labor must begin to work now to restore an aerospace industry that will be healthy, stable, and vibrant. U.S. policy toward domestic aerospace employment must reaffirm the goal of stabilizing and increasing the number of good and decent jobs in the industry.

The aerospace industry must have access to a scientifically and technologically trained workforce. Action must be taken to improve mathematics and science instruction across the entire education range - K-12 through graduate school. Scholarship and internship programs should be developed to encourage more U.S. students to study and work in these fields. In addition, investments should be made in vocational education to develop a highly skilled workforce, including registered apprenticeship programs for skilled and technical occupations.

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