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Testimony of Martin Kress, VP, AIAA Public Policy Committee, before the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry [Part 1]

Press Release From: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Presidential Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry.

My name is Marty Kress, and it is my honor to represent the 35,000 individual members and organizations that constitute the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. We are the largest professional society devoted to the progress of engineering and science in aviation, space and defense.

This statement reflects the views of AIAA, our Board, and members of some of our key regional organizations. However, as you can well imagine, views concerning the future of aerospace in America differ dramatically across the organization and its members. They vary depending on whether you are in the civil, military or commercial side of the business - trained on a slide rule or a computer - dealing with manned or robotic missions - working in space, aeronautics or aerospace - whether you are an optimist who sees the glass as half full or a pessimist who sees the glass as half empty.

Mr. Chairman - despite these differences - there are three messages that come through loud and clear when you talk to people about a Vision for Aerospace in the Year 2050.

First, it needs to be based on an honest and realistic assessment of where we are in the year 2002, our rate of progress/success over the past ten to fifteen years (where we have been), and what we have proposed as our nationaecurjectives for the next ten years (where we are going). The bottom line is that our ability to successfully execute our projects and to develop the prerequisite technologies will determine our future paths and options.

Second, and perhaps even more important, the vision needs to be based on a realistic assessment of our workforce and the future availability of the required intellectual resources to turn our dreams into realities. Our team is not as deep as it used to be - and if we are going forward with a set of bold, new initiatives, we are going to have to recruit a lot of new talent.

Third, our assessment needs to recognize that we are at a point of transition; our leadership is being threatened in several domains, and we need to manifest our national will and commitment to address these concerns.

With the exception of the Apollo Program, our national track record for turning bold visions into realities has had too few successes. Our lakes are still not swimmable, and our air is less than clean (the crusade of the early 70s). Energy independence is still a goal, but our rate of progress is quite slow (the crusade of the late 70s). Our student test scores inch up in math and science (the crusade of the early 90s), but our competitors' scores rise at a much faster rate. We dream about the moon and Mars (goal of the late 80s), but we are still extremely challenged in low Earth orbit with the successful execution of the Space Station Program (project of the early 80s). We talk about the high-technology world of tomorrow, but we fail to produce the high-technology workers of tomorrow.

The fact of the matter is that we have a hard time as a Nation in recent times committing to long-term projects and programs. Things change very rapidly in our world - priorities shift - and resources migrate just as quickly. Trying to implement programs and projects that exceed the political life expectancy of the champions is not easy. It reminds me of the story about the Senator who was too old to "buy green bananas" - we are not a very patient lot. Our challenge is to formulate a vision/action plan that has behind it the necessary commitment and will to permit implementation of a bold, far-reaching, innovative national aerospace plan. We - collectively - need to justify investments in some very, very green bananas.

In the world of aerospace, the Post-Apollo Report, the Paine Report, the Ride Report, the Augustine Committee Report, the Space Exploration Initiative Report, the Bird Books, the NASA Strategic Plan, and the Rumsfield Report all addressed a vision for aerospace. Unfortunately, the Post-Apollo Report's goals and objectives were overwhelmed by the realities of the Vietnam War and urban unrest; the Bird Books confronted a philosophical change concerning the role of the federal government in aeronautics; the Paine Report collided with the Challenger disaster; the Ride Report helped launch Mission to Planet Earth - but the rest were grounded; the Augustine Committee Report came head-to-head with the budgetary constraints of the early 90s; the Bush Moon/Mars Initiative vision collided with the realities of the Space Station Program; the NASA Strategic Plans were not aligned with the projected budget resources; and the Rumsfeld Report was put on hold due to the tragic consequences of 9/11. However, of all the reports and visions issued in recent years, AIAA believes that the Rumsfeld Report has the greatest likelihood of implementation, since it is clear that space and space-based assets have become a critical element of our national defense. And this Nation will meet its commitments to national defense. The question is, will this Nation meet its commitments to the civil and commercial aerospace arenas, and how are they linked to the national defense requirements?

Mr. Chairman, today everyone is this room is united in a cause of vital importance for this Nation - helping you and the members of this Commission formulate a vision and a plan for aerospace in America that is visionary yet realistic, challenging but doable, exciting and supportable, affordable yet innovative, responsible and meaningful, widely embraced and implemented - a vision that addresses the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of the American public and our nation's youth; a vision that optimizes the use of our existing civil, commercial and military aerospace capabilities and strategically invests in those areas that will enable us to accomplish our future objectives.

Mr. Chairman, the time has come for a vision and a plan that reestablish the standing and stature of aerospace industry as a vital technology platform, a critical element of our economic and national security, a launch platform for the dreams of our nation's youth, a key ingredient of U.S. foreign policy, and a symbol of American pride and technological prowess. At the end of the day, I would like to think that aerospace will be a career of choice, an employer of choice, and a field of study of choice.

As depicted in Figure 1, "The Japanese 'Roots to Fruits' Model of the Aerospace Industry," we need to convince a broader constituency that the technologies and competencies that enable our aerospace industry are not only key to our overall national and economic security, but also a key contributing to advances in other critical sectors of our economy. We need to convince a larger constituency that aerospace is a technology platform and the metaphor of the tree is more valid today for the U.S. than it was in the early 90s when it was adopted by MIT.

As Norm Augustine so eloquently noted in his famous critique of the aerospace industry, Augustine's Laws (6th edition, AIAA, Reston, VA, 1997), "In spite of all the pratfalls and foibles about the aerospace industry, there are few endeavors in the entire history of mankind that can point to greater achievements than those associated with the aerospace industry and in particular that subset which has been stimulated by the need to help provide for the security of the free world, build a world transportation and communication system, and assault the frontiers of space."

Mr. Chairman, AIAA is totally convinced that we have the capability to do great things in the industry - at our national labs and in our research universities. The question is, will we be given the opportunity and resources to do great things and, if so, when?

As you are well aware, the aerospace industry has suffered a severe contraction over the last two decades. Total aerospace employment in the U.S. has declined by 40% in the last ten years; total aerospace R&D investments (government and industry) declined from $30 billion in 1985 to $13 billion in 2002; the U.S. share of the world market declined from a peak of 90% in 1985 to less than 50% in the year 2000; our favorable balance of trade for aerospace exports, although still positive ($26 billion in 2000), has been declining since 1998; the overall federal investment in aeronautics has decreased 33% since 1998; and aerospace R&D decreased from 20% of the national R&D budget in 1987 to 8% of the overall R&D budget in 1997. Worse yet, in the last decade, there has been a 57% decrease in the number of students earning bachelor degrees in aerospace engineering, and a 39% decrease in master's degree candidates. There are many factors contributing to these phenomena - tough foreign competition, reductions in federal R&D investments, termination of major programmatic activities, industry consolidation, the end of the Cold War, deregulation of the airline industry, the extended life of aircraft and spacecraft, the emergence of competing high-technology fields (biotech, nanotech, microtech, infotech), the lack of interest and awareness on the part of the American public, etc.

Of all these reasons, probably the most important is the failure of our "collective self" to capture the sustained interest and imagination of the Nation and the key stakeholders in aerospace in America.

But if ever there were an opportune time to change that assessment, it is now.

Think of it - next year we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight. At the same time, we will have an international crew in orbit on the ISS; we will have the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit peering further back to the instant of the Big Bang; we will have rovers on the launch pad ready to return to Mars; we will have the domestic commercial aircraft industry back at full force and transporting the equivalent population of San Diego every day of the week; we will have surveillance satellites in orbit that enable our activities in the war on terror and our ability to monitor the destruction of the world's nuclear arsenal; we will have unmanned vehicles patrolling the rugged terrain of Afghanistan; we will have military aircraft on deployment around the world; and we will have the world's most advance space-based communications systems enabling our commerce and international trade, as well as enhancing our military capabilities.

It seems like the appropriate time to put forth a proposal that maps out a vision for tomorrow. But based on lessons learned from past attempts to capitalize on the anniversary of a key event, it takes more than the vision and marketing plan to ensure success; it also takes a firm commitment, resources, a timetable, and broad national support to turn a plan into a reality.

As Goethe so aptly noted, "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, ineffectiveness... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too."

Mr. Chairman, I have thought long and hard about today's hearing and the challenge that you have presented to each member of the panel and the organizations that we represent - propose a vision for aerospace in the year 2050, and discuss the key enablers. As someone who represents a critical subset of the enablers - the aerospace workers and organizations who belong to AIAA - I would like to ask the Committee's forbearance and state emphatically at the outset of this hearing that the members of AIAA are eager to be part of a bold aerospace initiative and are even more eager to have the opportunity to implement the program suite that this Commission, the White House, the Congress and the American public endorse - and we are committed to doing that in a professional and highly accountable manner.

However, if you will bear with me, I would like to address the question the Commission posed - not by identifying the key programs and projects that AIAA would like to see on the drawing board in the year 2050, but by describing a vision of the world in 2015. I do this to emphasize a key point in AIAA's overall assessment of the Nation's aerospace program: Our rate of progress in bringing bold projects and advanced technology initiatives to successful closure has to be substantially improved and accelerated if humans are to venture out into the expanse of space, if robotic spacecraft are to explore the outer reaches of our universe, if our space-based assets are to be secure against attack, if space-based communications, navigation, weather, and surveillance systems are to be a more integral part of our day-to-day lives, if our understanding of the planet we live on and the universe we live in is to be expanded, and if our national security is to remain secure. AIAA is concerned that past efforts to formulate long-term plans often have had the opposite effect on the target audience than that desired. Rather than act as a call to action and a motivator for bold new programs and initiatives, they tended to numb our audience and serve as a call to inaction because they were too far removed from the world of the key decision makers. Toward that end, AIAA would like to see a plan with a future based on the successful execution of some near-term actions - a plan that is not just proposed but is periodically reassessed, and for which a biannual report card is issued that assesses its progress and impact. AIAA would like to see the plan as the baseline from which we measure our progress and success.

Based on my experience, the real challenge is not to formulate an exciting vision for the year 2050 - as much as I believe that great nations, like ours, should have goals. The real challenge is to lay out a captivating plan and to make enough progress in the next 10-15 years to cause this Nation to passionately proclaim support and commitment for a set of bold aerospace missions. You might say that we need "market pull" if we are to succeed, and that market is the American public and our national leaders. I fear that, too often in the past, our efforts were based on convincing people of the logic and wisdom of our plan - "market push." As JFK so aptly noted, "Success has a thousand fathers, and failure is an orphan." Well, as an industry we need to significantly improve our ability to turn your dreams and those of the American public into realities. We need to make your job easy by bringing programs and projects in on schedule and within cost, and we need to do a better job of showing the American public that aerospace in America is the ultimate technology platform. We need to recommit ourselves to mission success, technical excellence, superb project and financial management, and to inspiring a new generation of explorers, pioneers, and innovators.

Having said that, let me give you an idea of the type of outcomes AIAA believes need to be produced by the year 2015 if our future plans and activities in aerospace are to be bold, innovative, and far reaching, if our technological leadership is to stay at least one (if not two) technology generations ahead of the competition, and if we are to ensure our economic and national security. If we meet a significant subset of these objectives, American preeminence in aerospace will be reestablished, and the challenge being mounted by our competitors will evaporate. However, if we fail to meet a significant subset of these objectives, we will be challenged, and challenged hard, by developed and developing countries alike. The choice is ours.

So what should the world of aerospace look like in the year 2015? Let's take a sampling.

 

Vision for the Year 2015

Demand for on-orbit research is so great that the first two lab sections for a second industrially funded Space Station are on the launch pad at KSC. On-orbit research results are revolutionizing world health care, advanced communications, and the development of new advanced materials.

Dick Rutan successfully flew the replacement vehicle for the Space Shuttle yesterday, winning the National Technology Challenge Award. Dick was awarded a check for $500 million and an order for 25 new orbiters.

90% of all ISS researchers during the last year met their on-orbit research requirements with remote wireless communications systems, significantly reducing ground-based infrastructure requirements and freeing up additional dollars for on-orbit research.

Over 500 million hits occurred last week on the NASA Web page from students across the world who are monitoring the International Galactic Survey Project. IGS was started in 2005 and is responsible for the launch of more than 500 mini-explorers and rovers built by university teams and students across the world.

Enrollment in degree-granting programs in math, science, information systems, and engineering exceeds the number of students in business for the first time in U.S. history, thanks to the initiation of the National Science and Technology Corps Initiative in 2004 after years of intense promotion by AIAA and other technology associations.

The National Research Council issued a major assessment of the Nation's new National Lab structure today. It found that the joint government/university research centers that serve multiple government agencies, industries, and high-tech organizations had significantly improved the basic research and research-for-development capabilities of the Nation, were seen as a magnet for bright, young researchers, and had substantially improved the integration of cutting-edge research into new programs and projects. The new National Lab structure was a key recommendation of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry in 2003.

The American public achieved the status of "informed" in the most recent New York Times science awareness poll - another significant advance in scientific literacy.

For the fifth consecutive year, the FAA's satellite-based Air Traffic Control System performed above specs. The additional flexibility provided to crew and ground controllers has greatly improved air traffic control and enhanced flight safety; this results from significant advances in communication, navigation, and surveillance system technologies.

Today, the Lunar Interferometer gathered its first complete data set of the ORION region, which is 1500 light years away from the planet Earth.

An all-electric aircraft flew in Dayton, Ohio, today. The "Right Flyer" incorporates cutting-edge advances in propulsion technologies that result in "zero emissions"; it also is a recognized technology test bed for other advanced technologies.

Preliminary test data from Mars generated by the new advanced laser communications systems indicate that the Mircochannel Processor is working flawlessly and that it is able to convert the Martian atmosphere into breathable oxygen and return propellant for future space explorers.

The first-ever hypersonic aircraft landed on the test bed at Edwards Air Force Base, marking another step forward in affordable access to space. This joint Space Force/NASA development activity was accomplished on schedule and within cost.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, the longest-reigning administrator in NASA history, announced last week that two-thirds of the NASA workforce was 35 and younger, 75% of these new employees had advanced technical degrees, and 50% had MBAs. NASA's innovation factor for technology and business is at an all time high.

A Pluto Mission was successfully launched at the Cape yesterday. This was the third major planetary mission to be launched that includes the new nuclear-powered space propulsion and power system that greatly expedites the voyage and the science return.

The Elm City Elementary School class trip to the Space Station was a huge success, and next year the kids are thinking about doing something really incredible - like going to Disney World.

All systems are "green" for go at NASA and DOD as every major aerospace project at the two agencies is on schedule and within cost, due to the implementation of better risk assessment tools and techniques, the advent of a new generation of project managers, and advance funding for all major projects.

LEO satellite constellations linked the children of the world today for another international video forum on the role of technology in the developing world. This was the fifth in the series of special forums sponsored by the UN to enhance our knowledge and understanding of our fellow man.

AAAS members gave presenters a standing ovation at the end of a forum yesterday on the last in a series of revolutionary findings from the Next Generation Space Telescope and Constellation X.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Research and Technology announced a new space-based Earth-observing system that is responsive to the needs of four of its key directorates: the Air Force, Space Force, NASA and NOAA.

U.S. high school students rank #3 in an international math/science competition - and #1 status finally looks doable.

The Commerce Department announced that domestic U.S. launch companies now have more than 50% of the global launch business, and U.S.-made spacecraft have 75% market share - both new highs. These numbers do not include launches of government payloads; as of 2010 all U.S. payloads are launched by commercial vendors, even man-rated launches.

More kids competed in the FIRST robotics competition this year than in high school football for the first time in U.S. history, and the U.S. dominated the International Science Fair that was held in Beijing, China. The President's Science and Math Fitness Program is given substantial credit for the amazing turnaround that has taken place in the U.S. The program was initiated in 2005 by President George Bush.

The European Union announced that its Vision for Aeronautics in 2020 was being substantially realigned due to the incredible advances made in the U.S. in the last ten years. The U.S. commitment to funding and implementing the Blueprint for Aeronautics in 2003 resulted in major advances in aeronautics technology and substantially improved the overall competitiveness of the U.S. airframe, engine, and avionics firms in the world market.

Federal Express announced that its Space Station on-orbit delivery system for the preceding year - the timeline from concept to on-orbit research - has been reduced by another 10% (to 180 days) and that by the end of 2017 the goal of five months, on average, for all payloads would be achieved.

The Federal Government announced that its technology accelerator program - a joint NASA/DOD/university/private sector initiative to accelerate the pace of technology development for specific mission requirements and market needs - has now resulted in the creation of over 500 new companies. This idea was proposed by the Presidential Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry.

A new space-based missile shield is successfully deployed as part of an international agreement signed by over 150 nations.

The International Consortium for Space-Based Research today announced that one of its Senior Researchers will receive the first-ever Noble Prize for space-based research.

Investment in on-orbit research on the International Space Station increases again in the proposed FY 2016 budget as more and more researchers recognize the value of space-based research.


There are three times as many NASA employees under 30 as there are over 50. The Department of Defense has three engineering grads applying for each and every R&T position vacancy. The R&T domains of the federal government are recognized by young people as careers of choice.

In DC today, the Presidential Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry issued its biannual report card. Once again the major goals and objectives set by the Commission for the Phase 2 program have been successfully executed, thus bringing phase 2 of a focused program to reestablish U.S. preeminence in aerospace technology and applications - civil, military, and commercial - to closure. The future of the industry is brighter than ever, according to the Commission.

Biogen today announced that its cutting-edge research on the Space Station has resulted in five new FDA-approved drugs; additional research on more cutting-edge drugs continues on the ISS.

Mr. Chairman, some people might say this vision for the year 2015 is incredible. But the individual and corporate members of AIAA say it is doable. If we are committed, if we provide adequate resources, we can turn the dreams of today into realities by the year 2015. Remember, our legacy is based on the fact that we "do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

 

Key Assumptions

Like any analysis, the AIAA assessment of the world in 2015 carries some underlying assumptions:

    1. The number of informed people in the U.S, people with an awareness of what is being done in the aerospace arena and its value, will be significantly increased; it takes an informed, educated electorate to buy into long-term science and technology initiatives.
    2. The number of college students in aerospace-related fields of study, and the number of young engineers and scientists in the workforce will be dramatically increased; to succeed requires a significant increase in available human resources, and we need to ensure that supply.
    3. Our national leaders will commit to long-term science, technology, and engineering programs/projects and provide full upfront funding; and we as a sector will successfully execute these programs/projects - on time, on schedule, and within available resources.
    4. Adequate investments will be made in advanced technology development starting in FY 2003 to make 2015 a reality.

These assumptions are in agreement with a key finding of the Rumsfeld Report:

"Investment in science and technology resources - not just facilities, but people - is essential if the U.S. is to remain the world's leading spacefaring nation. And the U.S. government needs to play an active, deliberate role in expanding and deepening the pool of military and civilian talent in science, engineering, and systems operations that the nation will need. The government also needs to sustain its investment in enabling and breakthrough technologies in order to maintain its leadership in space."

But the AIAA assessment also recognizes that, if aerospace in America is to engage in revolutionary research, technology, and development activities that change the world, some things will need to change. So let me talk about "enablers" that have been explicitly advocated by AIAA in recent years, and let me talk about a few that need to be assessed.

Continued in Part 2

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