The United States Must Prioritize A&D Industry Investment
By Dan Dumbacher|October 2020
The United States must take a hard look at where we want our nation to be after the coronavirus pandemic is over. Will we cede our technological leadership in aerospace and defense to other countries? Now is the time for action. We must support our country’s aerospace and defense industry by increasing investments in research and adequately funding its programs and mission.
The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is critical to our economic and national security, and it will be an essential part of our rapid recovery from the pandemic. Work in the A&D sector has enabled our prosperity and propelled us to preeminence. During other periods of national crisis such as World War II, the Cold War, and 9/11, the sector steadily developed transformative technology that changed the world and made our homes a safer and more comfortable place to live.
Many of the technologies we use every day either began or were refined in the aerospace industry. It’s a long list that includes weather satellites to help predict sunny days or dangerous storms, GPS satellites to help us find our way, and 3-D printing. U.S ingenuity is demonstrated with the recent launch of the Mars Perseverance Rover and the engineering triumph of Apollo. Such pursuits leads to technological and scientific knowledge that benefits us all.
But it is not guaranteed. The United States has taken for granted its role as the world’s aerospace leader in the 51 years since the first lunar landing. In the face of increased competition, both policymakers and the general public must continue to support the A&D industry through the current crisis and for the long term.
According to the Aerospace Industries Association, the A&D industry more than carries its weight. In 2018, the industry supported more than 2.5 million jobs, representing nearly 20 percent of the nation’s manufacturing workforce. A job in this sector pays well with an average wage of $92,742. The industry also generated nearly $929 billion in economic output, of which $459 billion is attributed to the industry’s supply chain. Moreover, $151 billion in exported goods reduced the U.S. trade deficit by 10 percent.
The A&D community has risen to the challenge and quickly responded on a global level to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies developed and transported PPE equipment such as masks and gowns to help protect frontline medical responders as they treat patients, rapidly designed new ventilator solutions and delivered them to hospitals nationwide, contributed component parts to ventilator manufacturers, assisted with supply chain and global sourcing needs, donated meals to help combat food insecurity, accelerated hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of payments to small business suppliers, and more. All on a timeline never seen before.
COVID-19 is weakening this resilient U.S. industry. Enormous revenue losses, large-scale unemployment in aviation, erosion of military capabilities, and the breakdown of essential supply chains composed of small and mid-sized companies are creating a dire situation that cannot easily be reversed unless steps are taken now.
Commercial and civil space activities have slowed just as low Earth orbit and lunar exploration efforts were expanding. Many NASA programs are built on private–public partnerships that are in danger of collapse without a strong private sector. While the Department of Defense has maintained readiness, weapon system development programs for current and future threats have been impacted and national security risks are increasing as the pandemic continues.
Therefore, we call upon decision makers to support the people and the companies of the A&D industry by increasing investments in research and providing adequate funding for programs and mission. Such action will lead to new technological advancements, a healthy workforce pipeline, and sustained U.S. leadership.
The A&D industry’s well-earned reputation for innovation and exploration will fuel the U.S. recovery and create opportunity and economic growth. It must be utilized to help return the country to a prosperous, safe, and exciting future for all Americans. Otherwise, our competitors will gladly take advantage of this opportunity. Our future is well worth the investment. ★
The A&D industry’s well-earned reputation for innovation and exploration will fuel the U.S. recovery and create opportunity and economic growth. It must be utilized to help return the country to a prosperous, safe, and exciting future for all Americans.Dan Dumbacher AIAA Executive Director