For the Long Haul

Most people simply don’t understand that aerospace talent is not “fungible,” said Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman’s CEO. In answering questions from the audience during his talk at AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference on Monday, Bush said most industries can hire extra design workforce when it’s needed, lay off the workers when they’re not required, and hire new people when they’re needed again. “That’s not the way it works” in aerospace, he said. “It takes sustained understanding of how these things work”—stealth, propulsion, electronic warfare, among them—to advance the state of the art, he said. One of the key challenges in coming years will be how companies “bridge” their design talent from one project through a long hiatus until the next one comes along, said Bush. He told the Daily Report after his speech that there “would be a real negative impact” on industry’s ability to design stealth aircraft if the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber is delayed “another year or two” because the design talent will evaporate away to other industries.