Report offers aerospace action plan

Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry

The U.S. aerospace industry risks losing its global leadership role in the absence of sweeping changes, a presidential commission has concluded.

In findings released Nov. 18, the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry called for a wide range of actions that include developing a national vision.

"We stand dangerously close to squandering the advantage bequeathed to us by prior generations of aerospace leaders," the commission wrote in the executive summary to its 300-page final report. "We must reverse this trend and march towards rebuilding the industry."

With unanimous support, the commission made the following nine recommendations to the Bush administration and Congress:

1. Pioneer new frontiers in aerospace technology, commerce and exploration.

2. Make modernization of the air transportation system a national priority.

3. Create a space imperative.

4. Adopt a policy that invigorates and sustains the aerospace industrial base.

5. Establish a national aerospace policy and create a governmentwide management structure.

6. Reform export controls.

7. Design a new business model.

8. Reverse the decline in the aerospace workforce and promote its growth.

9. Increase investment in basic aerospace research.

If implemented, the recommendations would impact aerospace programs at several agencies — the Defense Department, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and others — which, the commission emphasized, must begin working together.

"I think we've been very clear," chairman Robert Walker said. "We're empowering people more and I think that's a case we'll be able to sell."

The commission will brief Vice President Dick Cheney this morning and expects the administration to react favorably, said Walker, chairman of Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates.

The House Science Committee in a news release applauded the commission for its comprehensive assessment and announced plans to hold a hearing early in the 108th Congress on the matter.

Boeing Co., the nation's prime commercial aircraft manufacturer, backed the recommendations in another release this afternoon.

"It becomes a natural starting point for the administration and the Congress as they look to stimulate an industry key to helping ensure global security and economic growth," said Phil Condit, Boeing chairman and chief executive officer.

President Bush signed legislation forming the bipartisan commission more than a year ago and work began in November 2001. The commission hopes to perform a one-year review or else have the General Accounting Office follow-up.

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