Aeronautics Budget Request a "Tremendous Victory"
At a Town Meeting April 12 at NASA Langley's Reid Conference Center, Jaiwon Shin said the Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget request of $565.7 million for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is a "tremendous victory for all of you."
Shin, the associate administrator for ARMD, explained why by going through the president's budget request levels for NASA aeronautics since FY07, which showed a 27-percent increase from $450 million in FY09 to $565.7 million in FY14. Shin emphasized NASA Aeronautics has gained this confidence from the administration during one of the worst economic downturns the nation has faced.
He also noted that final budget levels appropriated by Congress and the president’s budget request levels have matched since FY10 without getting a yearly Congressional add-back.
"To me, that's also very significant," he said, "that it demonstrates bipartisan support for NASA aeronautics — so we can really plan long-term research."
Shin then asked Robert Pearce, NASA's director for strategy, architecture and analysis in ARMD, to discuss what the focus of some of that long-term research should be.
Pearce noted that the world is becoming increasingly urbanized and technologically advanced, with countries like India and China showing more capacity for innovation, which puts them in direct competition with the U.S. for aeronautics business.
"We're never going to compete on price with China," Pearce said. "We've got to compete on technology and value."
Pearce zeroed in on three main drivers: global growth in demand for high-speed mobility; climate change, sustainability and energy transition; and technology convergence, or the idea of aeronautics systems becoming more autonomous and less dependent on expert users.
He also emphasized the importance of stakeholder wishes, which include the desire for continued research into Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), safety, green aviation and Unmanned Arial System (UAS) access; more work in the fields of autonomous systems, composite structures and electric aircraft; low-boom supersonic flight; and tools for virtual testing.
"This all rolls up to a vision for the future where you see the idea of safety, NextGen, efficiency and environmental performance of our vehicles as being critical to reaching out and really being able to satisfy that global demand," he said.
Sustainability — both environmental and financial — and transformative technologies are key factors as well.
"This is what we briefed to the agency and the agency has accepted that this is a compelling and complete and worthwhile vision for aeronautics to pursue for the future," Pearce said.
Shin said he's excited about the vision, but that ARMD needs three elements to carry it forward: a clear why, a compelling what and a robust how.
"Bob clearly put forth the 'why' statement for everyone to see," Shin said, "and it's quite powerful."
Shin said that in coming months he expects ARMD and the four Research Centers will work together to put more flesh to "what" needs to be defined. He also said, as to "how" the vision will be achieved, NASA Aeronautics should be taking what he called a "convergent approach," capitalizing on advances happening in non-aerospace sectors such as the information technology and communication industries, and autonomous systems in the automotive industry.
"All these things are moving at lightning speed," he said. "We have to look around and figure out how to bring these powerful technologies into aviation."
Shin also addressed concerns about cuts to rotorcraft funding at the Town Meeting, saying that there is about $0.9 million reduction in the rotary wing research in FY14. He added that, in FY14, ARMD plans to work with the Research Centers, other government agencies, and industry to assess each organization’s unique roles and needs in order to maximize the community’s combined investment for the future rotary wing research.
"What we need to do," he said, "is make sure that our stakeholders and key decision makers understand the value and critical needs for rotary wing research."
He even applied the idea of “convergent approach” to rotary wing research, offering the hypothetical idea of future rotorcraft that are autonomous and fully electric or hybrid.
"How about that? Is that something we should work on?" he asked to a smattering of applause.
By: Joe Atkinson
The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman