The Importance of Aerospace to Our Nation
John Rose, AIAA Vice President, Public Policy
As a new administration takes office and the 115th Congress gets underway, AIAA’s public policy efforts are ramping up as well. The Institute is using this transition period as an opportunity to focus on educating both new and veteran lawmakers, their staffs, and other federal officials about the importance and impact of the aerospace community to the nation.
As in years past, our Key Issues (KI) provide the supporting pillars of the AIAA Congressional Visits Day (CVD), drive panel sessions at our annual forums, underpin our state-level advocacy efforts, and form the basis of a number of smaller focused events and activities. You can find the 2017 AIAA key issues at https://www.aiaa.org/KeyIssues.
A paramount issue that we must tackle is the ongoing struggle to achieve budget stability and predictability. We call on Congress to return to regular order and to end the mandatory across-the-board funding cuts, known as sequestration. At the same time, it is imperative for Congress to address the continuous decline in federal funding for research and development, which has caused the United States to fall behind its global competitors. Moreover, both NASA and the FAA are in need of long-term authorizations and appropriations in order to meet short- and long-term program and mission requirements. NASA has not been reauthorized since 2010, and the FAA is currently operating under a short-term extension that expires at the end of this fiscal year.
A robust and technologically proficient aerospace and defense (A&D) sector also requires policies that enhance our workforce. This includes improving the pipeline of STEM-educated workers into the U.S. economy and retaining highly-skilled foreign-born STEM graduates who receive degrees at U.S. universities.
In late January, AIAA teamed with the Aerospace Industries Association and the Space Foundation to organize two “Aerospace 101” educational briefings for congressional staff. Aerospace industry experts presented a broad overview of the sector’s myriad contributions to our national defense, security, economy, and quality of life. No specific programs or priorities were promoted. The briefings were hosted by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Congressman Steve Knight (R-CA).
From a grassroots perspective, our annual CVD program brings together scores of AIAA members of all levels and backgrounds from all over the country for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill. CVD offers professional and student members an experience that opens their eyes to the inner workings of the legislative process, enhances their career development, and presents the opportunity to be a champion for the aerospace community. This year’s CVD will take place on Wednesday, 29 March. There is still time to register, and we look forward to our members’ continued involvement in this unique and important program.
Even with a strong presence and a day of substantive member outreach during CVD it is still imperative for all AIAA members to be everyday advocates for aerospace. And you do not have to come to Washington, DC, to be an advocate. To help strengthen our grassroots efforts around the country we intend to revive the “August is for Aerospace” program this year. The best chance to meet directly with your member of Congress is while they are at home during a congressional recess. This is also an opportune time for AIAA Sections to engage elected officials in your outreach activities. You could invite them to participate in a panel to discuss a particular issue of relevance to the local aerospace community, ask them to come speak to your local chapter about one of our key issue areas, or have them attend an AIAA-sanctioned event. Additionally, you could invite the official to visit and tour your company/organization’s facility. There are many ways to get your representatives engaged.
We are off to a great start, but the Institute needs your help to address the profession’s public policy needs. Participation is power. Your involvement at the federal, state, and local levels drives our success and ensures that AIAA continues to lead the way on issue advocacy impacting OUR aerospace community. ★