Oklahoma Aerospace Summit Connects Industry, Military, Teachers
June 07, 2012
NORMAN – The potential impact of sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is set to automatically slash billions of dollars from the Department of Defense budget next year, set an ominous tone Tuesday for much of the 2012 Oklahoma Aerospace and Defense Summit & Expo.
Keynote speaker Frank Kendall, the acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said if Congress doesn’t do anything to stop the act from going into effect on Jan. 1, jobs will be lost and contracts will have to be renegotiated.
“Sequestration has a devastating outcome. We really need to avoid it,” he said. The industry hasn’t done any planning for sequestration, he said, because it is so unacceptable that they are focusing on rallying against it.
Marion Blakey, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association, called sequestration a “time bomb” and wore a pin that counts down the minutes until the act goes into effect.
“If it blows, we’re going to feel the shock wave in all 50 states, including this one,” she said.
Kendall talked about ways the Defense Department is cutting costs already, by canceling unaffordable programs and using competition to negotiate the best price on contracts. He said he planned to meet with the CEOs of aerospace companies on Wednesday while in the state.
“Our best source of information is not the databases we build. It’s the industry,” he said.
Preparing for future
Aerospace industry professionals, military members and teachers mingled at the summit, an annual forum to help aerospace companies “connect the dots” and find contract work with the military and large companies, said Mary Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance, which organizes the summit. Tulsa and Oklahoma City alternate hosting the event, which was this year held at the Embassy Suites Norman Hotel & Conference Center.
“We’re trying to figure out how to connect our Oklahoma companies with the (military) installations,” she said.
This year, a panel was held featuring high ranking officials from each of Oklahoma’s five military installations plus the National Guard.
Sessions were held on government contracting trends, unmanned aerial systems, NextGEN and workforce certifications. A major part of the summit each year is the education component. More than 100 Oklahoma teachers were awarded stipends to attend and be paired with an industry professional mentor.
Rachel Langley, a chemistry teacher at Jenks High School and fourth year summit fellow, said she attends each year to find new ways to connect classroom projects to the real world.
“The number one question with school kids is: ‘Why do I have to learn this?’” she said.
The education day is important for producing “homegrown” engineers and aerospace workers the companies here need to fulfill their workforce, others said.
Educators will spend Wednesday at Boeing and wrap up the day with a reception at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
Source: The Oklahoman http://m.newsok.com/article/3681780