The U.S. national security space programs are facing a tipping point that could cause irreparable harm to the nation’s defense and economic success unless certain actions are taken, according to a new report released by AIA.
The report, Tipping Point: Maintaining the Health of the National Security Space Industrial Base, highlights some of the current challenges facing the national security space industry base, including overly restrictive export control policies, a shrinking, aging workforce and budget instability.
“Our national leaders, the military and our economic well-being all rely on our space assets more than at any point since the dawn of the space age,” said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. “It’s critical that policy be backed by strong leadership, integrated strategy and the long-term funding and stability needed to maintain cutting-edge, cost-effective space programs.”
The shortage of future college graduates who enter the field of science and engineering represent a threat to future development in space and technology, since “we are not producing the workforce currently needed to keep America on the cutting edge of technology development,” the report stated.
The report makes a number of recommendations to remedy the situation including:
Establish leadership and program stability
Modernize and maintain infrastructure
Modernize export control policies and promote industry’s ability to compete
Support current and future workforce
Support robust funding for research and development and science and technology efforts
Ensure the protection and responsiveness of U.S. space and cyberspace capabilities
The AIA suggests the establishment of a national space management and coordination body that reports to the president that would establish a strong leadership role. Next, the AIA identifies numerous security space systems that must be sustained and modernized.
The report identifies key technologies that provide vital skills and capabilities to the national security space industrial base: application-specific integrated circuit technologies, liquid rocket propulsion, military satellite communications, missile warning, overhead nonimaging/persistent infrared, positioning, navigation, timing, selected space optics and solid rocket motors and their components. Future plans should maintain these critical sectors and workforce, the AIA says, yet “there seems to be little consensus on the need to protect these core capabilities.”
The report also suggests a national policy should be established to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education a national priority, including continued support for NASA, NOAA and Defense Department STEM education initiatives.