- Advocacy & Policy
- Research Center
May 24, 2007The Honorable John W. Douglass, who guided the Aerospace Industries Association for nine years through both lean and robust economic times, plans to retire as the group's president and CEO as of Dec. 31. Douglass, 66, is a former assistant secretary of the Navy and U.S. Air Force brigadier general, and a nationally recognized expert in systems acquisition. He is only the seventh full-time chief executive of the association, which was founded in 1919 and counts pioneers Orville Wright and Glen Curtiss as early members. Douglass has been a tireless advocate for the industry. He spurred interest in revitalizing research and development funding, modernizing the export control system, and heightening awareness of an impending shortage of critical talent in the workforce. Well-known to the capital press corps, Douglass has been cited on several occasions as one of Washington's top lobbyists. He leaves with industry-wide statistics at impressive levels, including record sales, increasing employment, and -- at $55 billion -- the largest foreign trade surplus of any U.S. manufacturing sector. Douglass also dealt with the considerable challenges posed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which included a dramatic economic slowdown in the civil aviation sector of industry in addition to the unspeakable human tragedy. AIA Board of Governors Chairman William H. Swanson said Douglass showed exceptional leadership through an important period for the aerospace and defense industry. "John has provided a steady hand at the controls for almost a decade," Swanson said. "The industry has benefited from his guidance and vision for the future. We greatly appreciate his service to our customers, the nation, and our industry." Douglass made the announcement that he would be retiring at the end of the year during AIA's Board of Governors meeting in Williamsburg, Va. Among his accomplishments, Douglass counts the successful push for the creation of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry, on which he also served. The commission's report resulted in the formation of the Joint Planning and Development Office, a multi-agency body preparing the Next Generation Air Transportation System. Douglass established AIA's popular Team America Rocketry Challenge for middle and high school children, an important part of efforts to attract more young people to careers in aerospace. AIA doubled regular membership from 52 to 103 under Douglass's direction while significantly expanding the Supplier Management Council from 24 to 172 members. Prior to coming to AIA Douglass served as assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition. He had served as foreign policy and science and technology advisor to Sen. Sam Nunn on the Senate Armed Services Committee and earlier completed a 28-year career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 1992 as a brigadier general. His numerous assignments included service as the deputy U.S. military representative to NATO as well as director of plans and policy and director of science and technology in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He also served as special assistant to the under secretary of Defense for Acquisition. Within the office of the president, Douglass was a director of national security programs for the National Security Council at the White House, working on a broad range of national security issues. He served as President Reagan's personal representative to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management chaired by David Packard. Douglass said his plans include writing, consulting, and pursuing opportunities to teach acquisition.