U.S. engineering. Although the interests of U.S. engineers and the engineering enterprise are not exactly the same as those of U.S.-based companies, the location of corporate headquarters still matters in important ways.
Clearly, NAE’s underlying interest is in the long-term health and prosperity of the engineering enterprise in the United States. The engineering enterprise includes engineering professionals, the organizations that employ them, the institutions that educate and train them, the government entities that support and rely on engineering, and the societies and associations that serve the engineering profession.
NAE President Wm. A. Wulf appointed an ad hoc steering committee composed of eight NAE members representing a range of engineering fields and two additional experts to oversee the drafting of the commissioned papers, develop the agenda for the public workshop, and prepare the final report. The papers provide an overview of offshoring in specific industries—software, personal computer manufacturing, automobiles, semiconductors, construction engineering and services, and pharmaceuticals. Taken together, these six industries account for a significant share of U.S. engineering activity. In all of the selected sectors, significant research on globalization and U.S. competitiveness has been done in recent years. However, some important industries that also employ engineers were not included, such as financial services, transportation/logistics, aerospace, and others. The papers can be found in Part 2 of this report.
The committee met face to face in April 2006 and held regular teleconferences throughout the project. The public workshop was held in October 2006. Following the workshop, the steering committee prepared a summary report, including findings, and provided suggestions to the authors of the commissioned papers, who then revised their work. In addition, several experts who made presentations at the workshop were invited to convert their presentations into brief papers (see Part 2). By its nature, this project does not constitute a comprehensive examination of all industries or all aspects of engineering.
Following the workshop, the steering committee developed this report, which includes an overview of the current state of knowledge based on available contextual materials (Chapter 2) and summaries of the insights from the workshop (Chapters 3 and 4). Chapter 4 also includes the committee’s findings and conclusions, restatements of outstanding questions and issues, and suggestions for next steps by government and the private sector.
In the course of organizing the workshop and preparing the summary, the committee reviewed some recent analyses of offshoring, as well as articles that have appeared in the business and general press. Because the offshoring of engineering is a complex, controversial phenomenon that is changing rapidly, the conclusions of scholars and analysts on all sides of the issues were questioned and their ideas debated.
Some of the examinations of offshoring the committee found most useful have been called into question because they were produced by organizations affiliated with companies or associations with financial or other interests in offshoring. The committee kept these affiliations in mind in preparing the report. However, because the report does not include policy recommendations, and because one of the key findings is that more data are needed on offshoring, the committee chose not to continually raise questions about sources that have not been challenged on substantive grounds. In addition, the NAE Program Office commissioned an overview paper to review statistical and other sources (Morgan, 2006). Finally, although a variety of sources is referenced in the summary, the primary bases for the committee’s findings are the industry-focused commissioned papers and the workshop discussions.
Dobbs, L. 2004. A Home Advantage for U.S. Corporations. Commentary, August 27. Available online at http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/08/27/home.advantage/index.html.
Morgan, R.P. 2006. The Impact of Offshoring on the Engineering Profession. Background paper prepared for the National Academy of Engineering. Available online at http://www.nae.edu/nae/engecocom.nsf/weblinks/PGIS-6WHU3R/$file/Morgan%20Paper.pdf.