Association's second five-year plan says investment in aeronautics at FAA and NASA is "insufficient and unfocused"

Facing cuts in budgets for civil aviation research and development at both the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA, US industry has launched a campaign to increase funding for aerospace R&D by almost $38 billion over the next five years.

"We are very concerned with the decrease in funding for aeronautics," says Clay Jones, Rockwell Collins chief executive and chairman of the US Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).

Approved by the chief executives of member companies late last year, the AIA's second five-year aerospace R&D plan calls for budget increases of $34 billion for NASA and $3.8 billion for the FAA. The plan was drawn up before the White House presented its fiscal year 2005 budget requests, which actually cut FAA R&D funding by $400 million and NASA aeronautics funding by $115 million.

The AIA's first five-year plan, unveiled in 1999, called for an increase in aerospace R&D funding of $50 billion. Spending actually increased by $89 billion, but $69 billion of it was at the Department of Defense. Efforts to increase NASA funding by $20 billion and the FAA's R&D budget by $8.5 billion fell far short of the mark, Jones admits. The new plan calls for DoD R&D funding to be maintained at the current level of around $70 billion a year.

While "encouraged by the space exploration initiative", the AIA is calling for $20 billion in additional funding to fly a new manned launch vehicle by 2010, not 2014 as outlined in the Bush initiative, which allocates $12 billion over the next five years, only $1 billion of which is additional funding. "The money for manned spaceflight should not come from NASA's aeronautics budget," says Jones.

The AIA is asking the administration to develop a vision for aeronautics similar to that proposed for space exploration. Investment in aeronautics R&D at the FAA and NASA is "insufficient and unfocused", says Jones. The European Union's "Vision 2020" for civil aviation, backed by significant R&D funding, represents an "aggressive international challenge to US leadership", he says.

Although not seeking an increase in the DoD's overall budget for aerospace R&D, the AIA does want money to be redirected towards underfunded areas such as rocket motors, propulsion, rotorcraft, GPS modernisation and avionics research.

Source: Flight International