Presentation by John Marburger to the Commission On The Future Of The United States Aerospace Industry

Press Release From: Office of Science and Technology Policy
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The Future Belongs to the Mobile
John Marburger, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Thank you for inviting me here today to talk with you about the future of the aerospace industry. As you know, I am the White House sponsor for your Commission, and Charlie Huettner of my staff serves as your Executive Director. If there is anything that we can do to help make your effort a success, please let us know.

The President strongly supports your effort. The nation has depended on the aerospace industry for decades to ensure that America leads the world in high technology, including the manufacturing of military and commercial aircraft, satellites, space launch vehicles, weapon systems and telecommunications systems. As a result, our military is the best in the world, our economy has benefited from a positive aerospace balance of trade, and our people and shippers have benefited from having the best and safest aviation system in the world. The public has also benefited from the numerous spin-offs from the aerospace industry, including cellular telephones, precision farming, new medical devices, improved weather forecasting, and hundreds of others.

The President wants to make sure that U.S. aerospace leadership continues in the 21st Century. The critically important tasks of this Commission are to help the President establish the direction for the U.S. aerospace industry in this new century, and to support national initiatives on education, defense, security, and energy.

This Commission is taking place at a landmark period in our history. The events of September 11 require a national response similar to that following the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957. The President has clearly expressed our national determination that all Americans, and indeed the world, will pursue their aspirations free from the threat of global terrorism. The reprehensible terrorist assault on two of our nation's most important facilities have turned a dramatic spotlight on weaknesses in our aerospace and air transportation systems.

Even prior to September 11th, however, the United States faced serious challenges in these areas:

  • our air traffic system - based on 1960's technology and management ideas - was approaching gridlock,
  • needed, but ever tightening environmental requirements on noise and emissions were limiting world-wide flight operations and creating international conflict,
  • our aerospace market leadership was being challenged as an explicit goal of foreign competitors,
  • and our country's investments in long-term aeronautics and space research and development were shrinking rapidly, threatening a crisis in the industry's ability to attracting trained and talented human capitol.

    We must ensure that the disruption of transportation and services that followed the events of September 11 does not recur. We need to develop a 21st Century global air transportation system that provides safe, secure, efficient and affordable transportation of people, goods and information in peacetime and wartime - enabling people and goods to move freely anywhere, anytime, on time. We need a system that:

  • Enhances national security by strengthening homeland defense while enabling the military to project power anywhere in the world at any time;
  • Increases U.S. economic competitiveness by building a more efficient, higher capacity air transportation system; and
  • Improves the quality of life of all Americans by enabling them to do what they want to do when and where they want to do it.

    We also need to re-invigorate an innovative aerospace industry that, with the appropriate incentives and investments, can develop such a system and sustain U.S. leadership in the 21st Century.

    It has never been clearer that our military's capability must be the best in the world. As we saw in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo, and are seeing again today in Afghanistan, air superiority, airborne reconnaissance, airborne weapon delivery, and airborne personnel and logistics transport are crucial to our military's success and national security. But as the events of September 11 showed, the air defenses within our nation are vulnerable to terrorist and other hostile actions. We must now re-double our efforts to eliminate the potential for any part of our aviation system being used as a threat to our homeland.

    The nation's civil aviation system must also be the best in the world. Aviation is key to making the mobility promise of America available to everyone and to moving high-value goods quickly around the nation and the world. Productivity growth and our gross domestic product are directly related to efficient and growing air transportation.

    Nevertheless, commercial air transport is becoming less and less reliable, with frustrating and expensive delays. The gridlock I mentioned earlier is a sign that the current system cannot simply be scaled up to meet projected future growth, especially given the additional measures required to enhance its security. Airports and airplanes can have undesirable environmental side effects, such as noise and air pollution. Travelers have growing safety concerns. And although the events of September 11 have reduced the demand in civil aviation, this downturn will only be temporary.

    Any one of these issues alone would be cause for serious concern. Taken together - and we do not have the choice to ignore any one of them - they call for immediate and bold action.

    It is now clear that for too long, we have put off the development of policies, systems and technologies needed to solve these challenges. For too long, we have lacked the national leadership necessary to make these investments and guide them through to application.

    We can wait no longer.

    Improvements in homeland defense, national defense and civil aviation require the same core suite of technologies. We can enhance security while creating greater mobility for America. This is what this Administration wants and what our country needs.

    Today, I call for this Commission to help the President and the Congress define the steps necessary to develop a new air transportation system, a system that will not only enhance our national security at home and abroad but simultaneously provide a civil aviation system that will enable a new era of mobility for all our citizens, new business opportunities for our most imaginative entrepreneurs, and greater productivity for the entire nation.

    The necessity of this call to action is clear to see. But the strategy and design for its implementation is surely complex and needs the thoughtful analysis of this able Commission.

    I offer three strategic developments that I believe are necessary.

    1 - We need national leadership to develop an integrated global air transportation system that simultaneously meets our national defense, homeland security and civil aviation requirements. Today, that leadership is dispersed among many agencies and organizations that properly deal with the aviation community. In the Federal government, this includes the Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, and the Departments of Defense, Commerce, and State. Often these departments and agencies deal with aviation-related issues independently, without prior coordination, and sometimes at cross-purposes to each other. All have separate authorizing and appropriating Congressional Committees. State and local governments also play important aviation development roles and private industry has numerous near-term competing forces that often prevent longer-term solutions in the national interest.
    We need strong leadership to understand these competing concerns, and then intelligently and decisively move ahead. I call upon the Commission to assess these needs and responsibilities and suggest how this National leadership might best be created.

    2 -The core of an integrated 21st Century transportation system will be a common infrastructure of communications, navigation, and surveillance system design and operation. The aviation system needs an infrastructure that is secure and allows all classes of aircraft, from airlines to unpiloted vehicles to operate safely, securely, and efficiently from thousands of communities based on market size and demand. It also needs to be able to operate within a national air defense system and enable military and commercial aircraft to operate around the world in peacetime and in war.

    The communications, navigation and surveillance system that the civil aviation system uses today is not much different from that used in the 1960's - ground based radar tracking, a reliance on voice radios, and overburdened air traffic controllers guiding growing numbers of individual aircraft throughout their flights. Not only does this system design not take advantage of new technological capabilities to increase its capacity, reliability, and efficiency, it is reaching its inherent scalability limits.

    We should be harnessing key technologies being developed by the Department of Defense, NASA, and private industry to enhance our homeland defense and civil aviation system. This includes high bandwidth satellite voice and data communications, precision navigation with GPS and necessary back-ups, global surveillance that continuously tracks both present aircraft position and updates a conflict-free flight path, technologies to vastly improve our short-term (2-6 hour) weather forecasts, digital terrain and airport data bases that create clear-day safety and efficiencies in any visibility condition, and new air transportation management systems that use the power of information technology to move vehicles with unprecedented efficiency, guaranteed safety, and immediate recognition of unauthorized deviations.

    I call upon the Commission to provide those organizational and technology investment strategies that will enable the development of this next-generation core capability.

    3. Finally, we need to create new management approaches and development processes in aerospace that foster and reward continuous innovation by industry, government, and academia. How can we re-invigorate the aerospace risk/reward payoff from the view of Wall Street?  What incentives can we provide to the Department of Defense, FAA, NASA, and industry to cooperate to aggressively develop and implement new technologies?  How can we attract a new generation of engineering students to the aerospace field?  Our current systems and practices are out of date and need to be revamped.

    I challenge the Commission to identify what changes are needed to best create a climate of innovation for aviation's future.

    History has shown the power of a mobile society. Early in our history, President Jefferson opened our frontiers for a growing population to move westward by foot and wagon train. President Lincoln brought west and east closer together for transport and trade with the transcontinental railroad. President Eisenhower foresaw the emerging needs and vast future benefits of an interstate highway system linking the entire nation for automobile and truck transport and national defense. Rapid travel through the air has been the latest opportunity to efficiently link the country - and the world - together.

    My vision, proven by history, is this:  The Future Belongs to the Mobile.

    We need to unshackle our current air transportation system to allow America to lead that future.

    It is rare that such a landmark opportunity for effective government action presents itself. Now we have an opportunity to

    1. Improve our nation's security
    2. Improve aviation security while addressing long-standing technical and organizational challenges restricting today's aviation operations
    3. Provide not only a short term economic stimulus in a time of stagnating national economic growth, but a long term investment in the high value technologies and systems needed to expand the reliability, efficiency, and capacity of air transportation - a crucial pathway to national productivity increases.
    4. Support a critical sector of the economy hit by job losses and sales reductions
    5. Revitalize research and development in technologies that have historically provided spin-off applications and benefits to many other industries

    I call upon the Commission to exert itself to identify strategies that will successfully address the Nation's interests. I pledge my support in this tremendously exciting and important endeavor.

    Thank you.

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