With the Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund already out of funds and borrowing over $122 million dollars from the federal government, it is time for Washington, DC to do more than just talk about creating jobs. One of the Colorado’s greatest assets, its highly skilled and trained aerospace industry is withering on the vine, as politicians continue to eliminate jobs and allow others to be shipped overseas. These contracts, along with American technology and our national security are being outsourced like our other manufacturing and textile jobs.
Colorado has a proud history of leading innovations and helping keep America the superpower in the sky. However, with cuts to NASA and the US Air Force, Washington has slowed our advancement and taken countless jobs along for the ride. Obama has continued to slash American’s aerospace industry with canceling our Space Shuttle program, eliminating the F-22 Raptors and other projects. Nearly 50,000 Coloradoans work in the aerospace industry. We have recently slipped from being the second largest aerospace space employer in the nation to third, now trailing Texas. We may continue to fall as politicians look to cut military contracts and postpone research and development.
Despite fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and growing threats from Iran and North Korea, Washington has stalled on programs like missile defense and continued to play political games on projects like the next generation of refueling tankers. These programs not only will make citizens of Colorado safer from our enemies, but will create jobs that will bolster Colorado’s economy.
The mid-air refueling tanker is a prime example of political gamesmanship putting both the economy and national security at risk. The current fleet of tanker planes have been in use since the Korean War. These Eisenhower era flying gas stations refuel American fighter planes, bombers, cargo planes and other Air Force and Navy aircraft as the complete training, humanitarian and military missions all over the world. Many a graduate from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs can attest to the necessity of having these refueling planes meet them for a mid-air refueling before they can complete their mission.
The contract to replace these aging aircraft has been fought for nearly a decade. Not because of problems with the plane, technological questions or military readiness, but for purely political reasons. After the Air Force announced the criteria for the proposal, France-based Airbus dropped out of contention. This caused some European politicians to cry foul and threaten to punish American companies attempting to bid on foreign contracts.
Not concerned with the ability of America’s military to have the modern weapons at its disposal, the safety of Air Force and Navy pilots and crews, the European nations and the American companies they partner with seem interested only in the $35 billion and tens of thousands of jobs a lucrative American military contract would provide their citizens. As a result of the European complaints, there are calls in Washington to further delay the awarding of this contract – currently the only bidder is American company Boeing – until Airbus and other companies can make a competitive bid.
While the Pentagon and European Union (EU) are locked in political contests, Colorado unemployment is at nearly 7.5% and the jobs the tanker contract would create, around 50,000 nationwide, are left in limbo. Yet Washington still insists on playing a waiting game leaving our military and workers to wonder. In March, the WTO finalized its ruling that Airbus had received billions of dollars in illegal subsidies in an effort to undercut American companies and bring contracts and jobs to European manufacturers. The European governments recognize the importance of aerospace jobs, yet ours risks eliminating them.
In April, President Obama announced cuts in several NASA projects leaving even more Colorado companies anxious as to their fate. These companies will be unlikely to hire employees, make investments in research and development and expand with their future in doubt. While our space program is downgraded, other nations like India and China are rapidly expanding their space race. Since President Kennedy challenged America to go to the moon, our nation has realized the advancements our space program made impacted the technology we now take for granted. However, to pay for projects like our recent government takeover of healthcare and dozens of other pet projects America’s aerospace sector must suffer, and with it Colorado’s jobs.
Barton Winfield is an investor, author, and former military officer now living in Granite, Colorado.