declined from 45,000 to 28,000 during the 1990s alone, according to testimony before Congress by DOD officials.
Competitiveness problems are exacerbated when national security is addressed—a realm wherein scientific and engineering leadership—or lack of leadership—can have profound consequences. President Bush, echoing the sentiments of several presidents speaking of their own eras, noted that “science and technology have never been more important to the defense of the nation and the health of the economy.” In the aerospace industry, most engineers and scientists require security clearances, the granting of which generally demands US citizenship. During my service as CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, that firm employed over 80,000 scientists and engineers. The defense establishment cannot simply outsource its software to a shop somewhere in Bangalore, as many commercial firms can and do. Executives at several US government organizations have told me that whereas they used to go to US universities and companies for information about leading-edge technologies, they now find that they increasingly must go abroad.
The recent century’s most decisive new military capabilities—such as the atomic bomb, night vision, stealth, digital computers, precision-guided missiles, nuclear propulsion, precision geolocation, space surveillance, and the airplane—all had their roots in new discoveries and innovation.
America’s national security challenge has been complicated by the ongoing transition of the nation from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Today, fully 77% of America’s jobs reside in the service sector, which is in general not the arsenal of military might. It may be possible to base a prosperous society on a service economy, but a nation cannot successfully fight a major conflict purely with a service economy. Armored vehicles, missiles, airplanes, sensors, and communication satellites are still among the instruments of survival and success in modern combat, not the production of reality television programs, sports extravaganzas, mass-media exposes, audits, and legal depositions. And finally there is the all-important underlying issue that a weakened economy may simply be unable to afford the resources needed to defend itself and its interests. The Soviet Union imploded in trying to provide an immense defense capability with an undernourished economy.
Several years ago, before the events of 9/11, Congress established what became known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, of which I was a member, and assigned it the task of examining America’s national security needs in the decades ahead and making any recommendations deemed appropriate. It was assumed by the mass media and many others interested in the effort that the group’s findings would concern the number of air wings,