FIGURE 4-1 U.S. and EU aerospace employment, 1980-2000. SOURCE: CFUSAI, 2002.

In the long term, this situation is untenable. As other nations build their own aerospace workforces, the current balance will inevitably shift, eroding or even ending our military advantage. This is already happening in the commercial aerospace sector.

Our policymakers need to acknowledge that the nation’s apathy toward developing a scientifically and technologically trained workforce is the equivalent of intellectual and industrial disarmament and is a direct threat to our nation’s capability to continue as a world leader. (CFUSAI, 2002)

The following are some of the trends characterizing the current state of the aerospace workforce of the United States:

  • A decline of 60 percent from the 1964 peak in the overall federal investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP, in particular for the physical sciences and engineering, even though the DoD depends heavily on the application of these fields to develop new warfighting and peacekeeping capabilities.

  • International competitors, including the European Union, are gaining (Figure 4-1). The U.S. share of the world’s aerospace markets as measured by annual revenue fell from over 70 percent to below 50 percent in 2000 (CFUSAI, 2002).

  • Because of industry layoffs that were due to the end of the Cold War and subsequent mergers, the nation has lost over 600,000 scientific and technical aerospace jobs since 1989, with 100,000 lost since the attacks of September 11, 2001 (Figure 4-2). Many of those laid off move on to other industries, which include nontechnical industries like banking and entertainment (CFUSAI, 2002; NASA, 2003a).

  • The average age of the aerospace worker in industry is 44. The average age is 51 at NASA and 53 in the DoD.1 Over 26 percent of the aerospace workforce will be eligible for retirement in 2008 (CFUSAI, 2002).

  • The proportion of aerospace workers 30 years old or younger dropped from 18 percent in 1987 to 6.4 percent in 1999 (AIA, 2001). In part this is due to the cyclical nature of major aerospace programs, which caused a general decline in the number of American-born youth pursuing an education in aerospace engineering at the undergraduate level (Figure 4-3) and the graduate level (Figure 4-4) (McLaughlin, 2002; Grossman, 2002; CFUSAI, 2002; NASA, 2003a). Another reason

1  

Statement of Thomas Kochan, Codirector, Labor Aerospace Research Agenda, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, May 14, 2002.



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