Aerospace industry urges Congress to safeguard satellite electronics technology base

WASHINGTON, 3 May 2009. The U.S. aerospace industry is urging Congress to take steps to safeguard the U.S. technology and industrial base supporting aerospace technology related to satellite electronics and other aspects of the the nation's space-based military defense systems, which officials say is under threat from a shrinking aerospace workforce, outdated export control rules, and a cumbersome defense acquisition system.

WASHINGTON, 3 May 2009. The U.S. aerospace industry is urging Congress to take steps to safeguard the U.S. technology and industrial base supporting aerospace technology related to satellite electronics and other aerospace systems related to the the nation's space-based military defense systems, which officials say is under threat from a shrinking aerospace workforce, outdated export control rules, and a cumbersome defense acquisition system.

"The role of space in our security and economy is critical," said Marion Blakey, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), in testimony last week before the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

Changes to U.S. export control law in the last decade transferred commercial satellite and military satellite technology to the U.S. munitions list with a devastating result, Blakey told subcommittee members, whose senior leadership includes chair U.S. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Calif., and ranking member U.S. Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio.

When commercial satellites started being considered as war materiel, the U.S. share of the export market dipped from about 70 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2005, Blakey said, adding that more than 60 percent of the space technology industrial base workforce today is 45 or older, and due to start retiring soon.

"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," Blakey told Congress.

Blakey pointed to the defense acquisition system as another critical challenge. While lauding the formation of the Joint Space Cost Council, she acknowledged that defense acquisition needs more far-reaching changes in programs such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, otherwise known as ITAR.

"Budget and program stability along with solid cost estimating are the building blocks of world-class acquisition," Blakey said. "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; steps to re-evaluate export controls on commercial communications satellites and other space technologies; and embracing management practices that promote requirements stability and accurate cost estimating.

For more information contact the AIA online at www.aia-aerospace.org.

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