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Mon, Dec 14, 2009

AIA: Aerospace Workforce Imperiled by Funding Cuts

Organization Warns Of Declining U.S. Leadership In Space In Congressional Testimony

U.S. preeminence in aerospace is threatened by aging demographics and uncertainty over the future of the U.S. space program and adequate funding to support it, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said Thursday in testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology.

"While the Administration and Congress consider the future of NASA, we must ensure our continuing leadership in space exploration by investing in education and funding cutting-edge programs to attract young people to careers in NASA and the industry," said Blakey. "The vitality of our nation depends on a healthy, renewable aerospace workforce."

Blakey used Brevard County, Florida as an example of the declining workforce. "Under current plans for the Shuttle’s retirement and the transition to the Constellation program, NASA projects a drop of almost 7,000 contractor “work year equivalents” in the next two years and will recover only 1,200 the two years following. In other words, contractors will drop to 17,000 from 21,200 by 2013," she said. "Some regions will be hit hard by the transition. In Brevard County alone, Shuttle related activity in Florida supports a workforce level of approximately 9,235 contract employees, (not including Federal workers). The total estimated shuttle-related annual payroll for this workforce is estimated at $600 million. Additionally, the shuttle program provides an estimated secondary economic contribution to the state, above salaries, of approximately $2 billion."

"These jobs are a national resource critical to our nation's technological capability and national security," said Blakey. "Aerospace talent lost to other industries may be unrecoverable with new workers taking years to train."

Maintaining the aerospace workforce depends on continuing stable and robust funding for the nation's space program. Fluctuating budgets and delayed programs adversely affect the schedule, production and maintenance of a skilled workforce.

"Space programs don't come off a shelf," said Blakey, "They take years to develop, test and build and interruptions and cancellations can be catastrophic to smaller firms."



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