- Advocacy & Policy
- Research Center
Speaking to the Aero Club of Washington on June 30, AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey warned that the American aerospace industry faces a unique combination of challenges that could threaten its position of global leadership.
Blakey noted that the aerospace industry already was confronting manpower shortages before the recent Congressional desire for spending cuts emerged. With the cancellation of the space shuttle program and half of American aerospace engineers reaching retirement age by 2015, firms face a dearth of workers who can “preserve and build on the base of knowledge and expertise” within the industry. Proposed budget cuts at the Defense Department and NASA threaten to compound this potential decline of innovation.
Describing Air Force One as “the biggest corporate jet in America,” Blakey described President Obama’s recent criticism of business aviation as “baffling.” The Administration has proposed changes to tax law that would remove incentives, known as bonus depreciation, supporting the jobs of workers, like those at an Alcoa plant he recently visited.
Through its Second to None campaign, Blakey said, AIA has proposed several steps Congress and the Administration can take to sustain and grow American global leadership in aerospace. Noting that the technological edge the American military enjoys on the battlefield “can erode quickly when we stop making sustained investments at a sufficient level,” Blakey urged maintaining Defense Department procurement and research and development spending at their current rates. Congress also should sustain an $18.7 billion budget for NASA in 2012. “Without continued investment, this could become the last generation of Americans to be members of a spacefaring society,” she told the audience.
AIA also supports President Obama’s request for $1.24 billion to implement NextGen air traffic control modernization in commercial aviation. This commitment, Blakey noted, would repay the national economy in lower fuel usage and more efficient air travel. “It may seem foolhardy to call for full funding in this budget environment,” the former FAA administrator told the audience, “but when you compare the constraints of our current ATC system with the benefits of NextGen and how quickly we can realize them, I think it’s clear that NextGen is a smart investment.” She called on the aviation industry to support implementation of the new GPS-based technology in commercial fleets.
Blakey also called for reform to the current export control system to allow American aerospace firms to ship a greater number of technologies with civilian application overseas. Such reform should also allow firms to introduce new products like unmanned aerial systems to the international marketplace. While the U.S. enjoyed a $60.6 billion trade surplus in aerospace in 2007, that advantage has eroded annually ever since.