Monday, May 4, 2009

National Security Space Industrial Base Challenged from Three Fronts

A shrinking aerospace workforce, outdated export control rules and a cumbersome defense acquisition system all threaten the health of the U.S. national security space industrial base, Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion Blakey said Thursday.

"The role of space in our security and economy is critical," Blakey said in testimony to the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee. "Space systems provide everything from high-fidelity intelligence on terrorists in the tribal regions of Pakistan to global positioning system information to millions of Americans."

Changes to U.S. export control law nearly a dozen years ago transferred commercial satellites to the U.S. munitions list with a devastating result: the U.S. share of the export market dipped from about 70 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2005. Adding more strain, more than 60 percent of the workforce today is 45 or older according to recent surveys.

Blakey pointed to the defense acquisition system as another critical challenge. While lauding the formation of the Joint Space Cost Council, which originated in 2006 as an AIA-government initiative, she acknowledged that defense acquisition needs more far-reaching changes.

"Budget and program stability along with solid cost estimating are the building blocks of world-class acquisition," said Blakey. "To achieve that goal will require a renewed partnership between the Defense Department, Congress and our industry."

AIA recommendations to improve the space industrial base include:

# Support investment in science and education national priorities, including STEM initiatives.

# Take concrete steps to re-evaluate export controls on commercial communications satellites and other space technologies.

# Embrace management practices that promote requirements stability and accurate cost estimating.

The text of Blakey's remarks can be found on the AIA Web site at

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