Work with Us to Raise the Profile of the Aerospace Community
By Tim Dominick|January 2020
As Chair of the AIAA Public Policy Committee (PPC), I’m excited to highlight our policy-related successes from this past year and also take the opportunity to make members aware of how you can participate in AIAA’s public policy activities.
Last February, at the beginning of the 116th Congress, AIAA sponsored an educational briefing covering the importance of government investment in aerospace and its potential to affect the industry and the nation’s economy. The “Aerospace 101” session was attended by roughly 90 House and Senate staffers. Then in March, we held the 21st annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) program. It was our largest and most successful CVD to date with approximately 175 members, representing 36 states and 37 sections, attending and visiting about 275 offices on Capitol Hill. More impressive was that over 60 percent of the participants were students.
The objective of our CVD program is to increase awareness of the long-term importance of science, engineering, and aerospace technology to the nation through face-to-face meetings with members of Congress, congressional staff, key administration officials, and other decision makers. I believe that objective was especially met in 2019 given the positive legislative developments that transpired from our advocacy efforts and strong relationships. The first of those developments was the passage of the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, which appropriately recognizes the notable women who contributed to NASA’s success during the Space Race and highlights their broader impact on society. AIAA endorsed the legislation from the outset and leveraged the membership to call on lawmakers to support it. The second development was the overwhelming interest in our congressional activities leading up to the International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2019). Over the course of the summer, the Institute hosted three different issue briefings and two receptions designed to generate interest in the IAC and support for the nation’s space programs. The third development was the introduction of the NASA Authorization Act of 2019—a key issue covered during CVD. The bill provides policy direction for NASA and its various programs and missions. During the drafting of this important legislation, congressional committees sought inputs from AIAA, and the PPC was able to provide feedback on behalf of the Institute. These activities demonstrate how AIAA is viewed as a valuable resource to lawmakers in the development of aerospace policy.
Related to the NASA authorization bill, AIAA held its initial policy breakfast in late November and it was a rousing success. More than 50 aerospace community members attended the off-the-record event and learned more about the legislation from a panel of senior Senate staffers. The new initiative is designed to connect our members and nonmembers with government stakeholders and other thought leaders. The breakfast series also provides a great opportunity for participants to network with key representatives across government, industry, and academia. Our second event will cover another issue of relevance and will take place later this winter.
I am very proud of the PPC’s work this past year, but I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of the broader membership’s involvement in our policy-related activities to achieve our goals. There are three primary avenues for AIAA members to contribute: key issue suggestions, policy papers, and CVD.
Each year, the PPC establishes key issues that become the focal points of the Institute’s engagement with congressional decision makers, the administration, and state and local officials. The key issues provide the supporting pillars of the CVD program, drive panel sessions at our annual forums, underpin our state-level advocacy efforts, and form the basis of smaller focused events and activities. These issues are intended to raise the profile of the broad aerospace community and generally align with one of our current policy pillars: R&D and Innovation, Funding Stability and Competitiveness, and Workforce Development and Enhancement. The PPC collects key issue input year-round. Consider submitting key issue suggestions through the AIAA website or your local section.
The second way for members to contribute is by authoring or contributing to a policy paper. AIAA policy papers are prepared to convey educational and informational material and may express opinions of and recommendations for action by the government to address issues of interest or concern to our members. They are a mechanism by which AIAA members contribute to crafting or influencing government solutions to problems. There are four types of policy papers: Information Papers, Opinion Papers, Institute Position Papers, and White Papers.
Lastly, members can contribute by attending the aforementioned CVD program. This year’s event will be held on 18 March. Registration is currently open and I encourage you to sign up. There is no fee to attend, and headquarters is offering limited subsidies to help defray the cost of travel expenses. Members and AIAA sections are also encouraged to promote our key issues by visiting their members of Congress during district work periods, which offers a better chance of meeting the lawmaker face-to-face.
In closing, the PPC welcomes all member involvement in AIAA’s public policy activities, and we need member engagement to continue to grow our impact. For more information on these activities and how you as a member can contribute, please visit the Advocacy section of the AIAA website: aiaa.org/advocacy. ★