The administration’s fiscal 2008 budget request includes adequate funding levels for national defense, but is largely flat for NASA space exploration and science, and continues to shortchange NASA aeronautics research and development, AIA President and CEO John Douglass said.

“The funding levels proposed by the president are good news for our country’s defense needs,” Douglass said. “However, we must reconsider NASA budgets that will make it difficult to achieve our exploration and aeronautics R&D goals.”

The President’s Budget Request shows a strong commitment to investment in force structure and important long-term programs like the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter), F-22A Raptor, and CV-22 Osprey. The request represents an increase of more than 11 percent for non-war spending for the Defense Department while including $235.1 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This funding is critical to the war on terror, defending against conventional threats, promoting peace and stability abroad, deterring potential adversaries, and reassuring allies and friends, Douglass said.

Douglass added that how the president proposes to spend defense dollars on research and development, and maintaining funding for procurement, is also important. “Sustained and predictable investment in these areas is critical to maintaining the long-term health and vitality of the aerospace industrial base and workforce,” Douglass said. “We cannot afford to mortgage our future national security to cover near-term costs.”

The request for space programs represented an increase of about $1 billion to $17.3 billion. That amount will allow NASA to continue planning efforts for the Vision for Space Exploration, which will send astronauts back to the moon and onto explore Mars. But it does not make up for flat exploration funding this fiscal year, nor does it approach the $18.7 billion Congress authorized for NASA’s 2008 funding in the 2005 authorization bill. As a result, NASA is behind where it should be at this stage of planning for the vision.

NASA’s aeronautics R&D funding remains an area of concern. Although NASA acknowledges the importance of the Next Generation Air Transportation System it is unclear if they have requested the necessary resources — previous estimates concluded an additional $200-$300 million is needed each year. Last week Congress added money for aeronautics R&D in a continuing resolution for the rest of this fiscal year, rejecting a move for a reduction. However, in the new budget proposal, the president for the second year in a row requested nearly twenty percent less than the current fiscal appropriated level. This is less than half the funding level of the early 1990s. With these proposed funding levels the U.S. is in danger of losing its role as the world leader in aeronautics.

AIA is encouraged, however, by the increased NGATS funding in the FAA budget request and we look forward to reviewing the details in the FAA reauthorization proposal that will be released later this month. AIA will closely examine the details of FAA’s proposed user-fee structure. AIA is particularly concerned with the prospect of user fees for safety oversight and product certification, and will adamantly oppose user fees in these areas.

Douglass said he was pleased with the president’s continued commitment to robust Foreign Military Financing in the fiscal 2008 budget request. These funds are critical to the continued improvement of defense capabilities for our allies and friends and will enhance military cooperation with them. AIA also supports the administration’s proposal to make the U.S. Export-Import Bank self-funded given its ability to cover its own costs. The Ex-Im Bank has played a vital role for the aerospace industry by issuing loan repayment guarantees for foreign air carriers in key emerging markets to purchase U.S. aircraft.

Founded in 1919, the Aerospace Industries Association represents the nation’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military, and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, space systems, aircraft engines, materiel, and related components, equipment services, and information technology.