STEM the Tide

Spending on defense research and development has plummeted to a dangerous level, said Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush on Monday. Addressing AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference, Bush said pre-sequestration forecasts suggest that defense R&D will be just one-quarter of a percent of gross domestic product over the next 10 years, versus one percent in the 1960s when GDP was much lower. Whatever R&D spending levels emerge from the current defense downturn, “that is a decision . . . about our future,” he said. Failing to invest will send a “clear message” to the next generation of technologists that it’s better to have a career elsewhere, he said. More than half of the current population of professional aerospace engineers are “eligible for retirement,” said Bush, and competition for the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math professionals is already fierce. Failure to invest adequately “affects the health of our enterprise,” he said.