Former Lockheed CEO urges $40B bailout for U.S. future

Bailing out banks and automakers, homeowners and unemployed Americans must be done, but unless government pushes science and engineering innovation, the hundreds of billions of dollars it’s spending will buy nothing more than a handful of short-term Band-Aids, said a former IT executive.

Jobs must be today’s priority, former Lockheed Martin Inc. president and chief executive officer Norman Augustine said Feb. 18 in a speech to the Ballston Science and Technology Alliance. “Twenty thousand Americans lost their jobs today, and 20,000 more will lose their jobs tomorrow and every day until we stem this tide.”

But spending trillions to build bridges and dams is only a short-term solution, without “long-term solutions that deal with two other primary issues: human capital and knowledge capital,” he said. And that means putting money — $40 billion to start — into basic research, facilities, instrumentation and education, he added.

It’s an idea Augustine has espoused since well before the current economic crisis. He chaired the committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, a 2005 venture of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. The committee produced the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report on the dire and worsening state of U.S. technology innovation and offered 20 recommendations on how to turn the trend around. The $20 billion in funding to implement the recommendations went in and then out of the 2008 federal budget, got locked out for 2009, but has found a home in the Obama administration’s stimulus package, Augustine said.

The recommendations are “not about science or engineering, although I love those things; I think they’re an end in themselves like reading Shakespeare or listening to a symphony,” he said. “But the fact is, when push comes to shove, it’s about jobs.”

Scientists and engineers comprise only 4 percent of the U.S. population, he said, but the number of jobs they create is disproportionately large for their numbers. It is their innovation and U.S. industry’s ability to turn discoveries into products and quickly market those products worldwide that will save the economy, he said.

“Americans, even though they’re not technologists, tend to take our leadership in technology for granted,” he said. “We can’t take leadership for granted; we must keep reinventing it every day.”

Educating the scientists and engineers to do so will be a prime driver toward achieving a competitive edge, he said.

Nearly 70 percent of math teachers in grades 5 through 8 don’t have degrees or certificates in mathematics, he said. “But that’s good compared with science, where 93 percent of teachers don’t have degrees in their field.” Too often, science and math are being taught by teachers virtually unschooled in the disciplines and for whom the subjects hold no interest, he said, and transmission of that joylessness tends to override learning.

“But I’m quite optimistic,” he said. “We’ve got strong support from this administration. Right after we finished the “Gathering Storm” report, I spent more than an hour briefing then-Sen. Obama. He was very supportive, he understands.”

It’s like former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said, Augustine mused, “If you don’t solve the K-12 education problem, nothing else is going to matter all that much.”

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

Reader Comments

Tue, Feb 24, 2009

Lockheed Martin is the biggest defense contractor in the world. Of course Augustine wants LM to get a piece of that action. Unfortunately, LM makes its profit on blood money. There needs to be a full investigation of this company, and why a disproportionate share of government contract work is sent to LM. There are many other highly qualified firms that can perform that work.

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 Scott Houston

I am an engineer with Lockheed Martin, I also earned a teaching certificate in Math last year. I also have taught in the public schools before I became an engineer--for a year, until I decided it was truly beneath me. Most teachers get very little respect by society and are paid very little. You will NOT improve this country's economy without discipline by parents. Standards and the system should change to where Teachers make as much as engineers, and require as many credentials--therefore you attract the best and brightest. The discipline in schools must be overhauled---teachers do too much discipline and ZERO teaching. But, when you give children too much for too little work and society takes for granted hard work and striving for excellence---you are in a world of hurt. Until we have starving children in this country, then possibly our society/economy will change. If not, we are destined to be out-competed by China and India that produce children who are better educated, brighter, and dont mind working twice as much as the average American and earning twice as little.

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 Ken Freeman Ann Arbor, MI

I agree with Norm Augustine. Innovation is enabled by a critical mass of enabled and prepared individuals who have the skills and base knowledge to see and implement solutions, and the vision to select the most important problems to attack. This requires talent, but also education. Great schools can help all students, but poor schools do not help as much. But GOOD schools that educate broadly can give a wide range of students (that critical mass thing) the exposure and basics to choose and tread a path themselves. Limited great education is not a substitute for widespread good education. Poor education is, well, poor, and needs to be fixed.

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 Stephen

Placing education as a government objective has not generated any great minds. Innovators are forged in the necessity of an objective reached through hardwork and discipline(personal faith is a part but that's another story). Working with youth for the past decade has provided me with the insight that nearly all of the great minds were developed through studies outside of public schools (most were homeshooled or through extensive personal studies). The U.S. needs to get away from governmental education and redirect control and responsibility to parents. Colleges in the U.S. are a great resource as long as they do not follow political aspirations. Example: Global Warming's lack of true science. I took 19 hours of Physics in college(more than enough to recognize a misrepresentation of the data).

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 David Frenkel Reston, VA

I completely agree with these comments. I would only add that many of our social problems are a result of a poor educational system primarily in inner cities. It is amazing to me that the US military is a strong advocate of education which Congress funds but Congress does not feel the same way about civilian education. Maybe Obama will be that champion that public education needs.

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