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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Why AIA's policy initiatives matter to the rest of us

End of the year, state-of-the-industry type speeches don’t usually resonate with me. They too often either restate known facts or are too narrow.

When you cover a niche within a larger industry, even when the niche is as large as the government market, you long for someone who can connect with the broader business world.

Marion Blakey, president and CEO of AIA, delivered such a speech this week at the aerospace group’s annual year-in-review and forecast luncheon.

Granted, Washington Technology doesn’t cover aerospace per se, but many of the companies in our systems integration and IT world play important roles in the aerospace market, so what happens there is important.

The annual luncheon served mostly as a networking opportunity for me, as AIA’s leadership often reviewed the numbers of aircraft built and delivered in the U.S. market share versus the world, and the aerospace contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product.

But Blakey didn’t do that this year; instead, she took the opportunity to connect the aerospace industry to much broader issues that impact government contractors as well as U.S. national security as a whole.

AIA released a public opinion poll showing bipartisan support for more national security spending. See our story on the report.

She used the report as a jumping off point for how she and the industry see the world, and why we need to pay attention.

“The events of 2014 remind us that new national security threats can come from old foes or materialize out of nowhere due to a chaotic region’s ongoing strife,” she said, referring to Russia’s resurgence as a threat and continuing problems in the Middle East with ISIS and the Taliban.

Her warning is that we can’t look at the world as an isolationist, nor can we take the view of a fiscal ideologue. Those views simply don’t work, she said.

Blakey’s advice focused on several actions Congress needs to take:

  • Abandon budget caps. They should be relegated to the “dumpster of bad policy ideas.”
  • Institute reforms that look at revenue and entitlements.
  • Continued support for the FAA and the modernization of air traffic control system.
  • Reauthorize the Export Import Bank.

While Blakey couched reauthorization of the Export Import Bank – which helps foreign buyers finance the purchase U.S. goods – in terms of the impact on the aerospace industry, it has much broader benefits across the economy.

And finally, an issue near and dear to all contractors is that need for procurement reform.

She voiced her support for Secretary of Defense nominee Ash Carter.

“We’re expecting he’ll provide the clear leadership that we need to achieve meaningful changes to a very cumbersome and inefficient system,” Blakey said. “The current system hurts our smaller firms, inhibits innovation and makes it harder to get needed equipment in the hands of our war fighters.”

While Blakey’s point of view is rightly focused on how many of the policy initiatives impact the aerospace industry, but I think that it’s important to see the broader context.

With the current political environment, it’s critical to connect with the broader concerns and present yourself as a business leader, not just as an industry leader. From what I heard, Blakey did just that.

Click here for her entire speech as well as AIA's annual report.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM


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