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BACKGROUND AND QUESTIONS ON NASA'S ROLE IN AERONAUTICS Dr. Robert A. Frosch Administrator National Aeronautics and Space Administration Art Buchwald enunciated what is known around Washington as Buchwald's theorem when he said that the way to succeed in Washington is to fail. Having observed the Washington scene for a while, he concluded that it was precisely those portions of the government that failed in solving problems that received the greatest attention. Therefore, those problems must be terribly important and they must have more money in next year's budget to try again to solve those problems. I suppose my corollary to Buchwald's theorem is that the way to fail in Washington is to succeed. In some sense, that is an introductory statement to this workshop. For over 60 years we have had a research and development operation within the U.S. government that has maintained a close working relationship with private industry. We have succeeded jointly in the sense that, over a period of time, the U.S. aeronautical community founded, constructed, and came into domination of a world aeronautical industry. That, I think, is strong evidence of success. In some sense, that very success has led, in the past several years, to a questioning of the basis and procedure upon which that success was based. We have gone through a period in which the very nature of the NASA program in aeronautics, the relationship with industry, and the fact that there was a funded program have been questioned both during the budget process and a number of policy formulation processes. We are continually being asked in very blunt terms, "Why does the U.S. government do research and development that subsidizes a wealthy industry?" I am putting it in its sharpest and strongest terms. This is a question we are asked frequently. I would say that the Congress is a bit schizophrenic on this point. Some subcommittees and committees and members are strongly in favor of even more aeronautical research and development. Some take the view that I have just described. So, we are precipitated by the outside-of-NASA climate into
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examining this whole question of what the policy of NASA, industry, and the academic world ought to be in regard to each other in the future. Of course, it is not wholly a bad thing to go back and reexamine the basis upon which we are working and the policies and the boundary lines between various kinds of work. The specific charter for what we are doing is a legislative charter. It is the Space Act of l958, which, like most organic acts, is specific but vague. In order to decide what you have to do, you must do a good deal of interpreting. It is clear that NASA is charged with doing research and development to ensure U.S. leadership in space and aeronautics. However, since nobody knows precisely what leadership in either of these subjects means, it gives us a good piece of rhetoric but doesn't carry us very much farther. It is clear that we principally have a civil responsibility, but we also have a responsibility for working with and supporting, as well as being supported by, the military side of the aeronautics and space business. Beyond that, there is relatively little guidance other than that it is a research and development charter. All parties seem clear on the fact that we should not be in the business of designing or building commercial aircraft or building prototypes. All parties seem clear that we should be in the business of basic research in aeronautics. Nearly everything else is in some sense in contention. So, one way to put a class of questons to this group is to say, "Where are the boundary lines, or in what areas between pure aeronautical research and the actual construction of prototypes or final flying machines should the NASA program reside? How should it span that set of possible areas? What is the relationship of the government-owned facilities to the academic facilities? How shall those relationships be preserved? What is it that NASA should be trying to do as its specific role in the whole business of civil aeronautics and in its relationship with military aeronautics?" This is not an academic exercise for us in any sense of the word. It becomes very real in the course of the next month or two as we try to decide what the fiscal l982 budget for NASA in aeronautics ought to be, and what activities it should include, and what activities it should exclude. I don't, by that remark, mean to say that this is a prebudget exercise for the l982 budget, but I do want to put both an immediate and a long-range policy realism on it because every year we have an opportunity, in the course of developing the rationale for the budget, to decide what the rationale is for future operations and future budgets. Having established a general framework, I would like to say that your willingness to come and spend a week working on this problem is our strongest indication that the industry and the academic world are interested in what we do and think there is some importance to it. I want to thank you for taking the trouble and effort in coming together to help us try to rethink what the NASA role is in aeronautics, which is the general charge for the week. Thank you.