On Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Tom Vice, sector vice president, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, addressed the Florida Institute of Technology on the need to support science and technology education in the United States. Below are his remarks.
Support for Science and Technology Education in the United States
I’m honored to be here today at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) – one of our Nation’s finest universities as you celebrate 50 years of providing an outstanding education to scientists and engineers, as well as those in business and the Arts.
It is also my pleasure today to announce Northrop Grumman’s $1 million gift to the University to fund a new endowment.
The Northrop Grumman Engineering and Science Student Endowment will be the first of its kind. This endowment enables students participating in the annual Northrop Grumman Engineering and Science Student Design Showcase to focus on developing and completing their projects without the worry of raising all of the money to cover their project costs.
They will save plenty of time – no longer having to hold countless bake sales, car washes, or spend time canvassing local companies to sponsor their projects. However, even with Northrop Grumman’s support, I’d still strongly encourage our community to continue to support – we can’t do enough!
When Dean Waite and I first talked about all of the great things happening at FIT, I knew that I, and Northrop Grumman as one of the major employers in the State of Florida and in Brevard County, needed to do more to help support these future engineers and scientists. And, growing our future U.S. engineers is one of the top priorities for Northrop Grumman and for me personally.
Support for this student showcase is a natural extension of our relationship with FIT. We have a strong affiliation with the School of Business and School of Engineering through our company-sponsored MBA and Dual Systems/Software Engineering programs, our participation in career days and ethics seminars, and the 427 FIT degrees held by Northrop Grumman employees across the company.
I’d also like to point out that 209 of those 427 degrees (many graduate degrees in advanced sciences and technologies) are held by Northrop Grumman employees who reside here in Melbourne. I’m also pleased that Jon and Paul from my engineering team and alumni of FIT could join us today and share their personal experiences with you.
Even with all of these successes, we must do more to support technology and science education here in the United States.
In December 2005, I participated in the National Summit, organized by the President’s cabinet members and Congressional leaders. The summit was designed to provide a high-level forum for business leaders and legislators to focus on what we need to be doing to strengthen our nation’s innovation capacity, particularly in the areas of science and engineering research and education.
In this world of global competition, our country is rapidly losing ground to other nations in the number of citizens who hold degrees in engineering and science.
It was an eye opening experience to know that I was not alone in my concerns about America’s competitiveness and the impact to our economy.
As highlighted by Norm Augustine in his recent Congressional testimony, a variety of studies have concluded that between 50 and 85 percent of the growth in America’s Gross Domestic Product over the past half-century is rooted in our advancements in science and engineering.
Correspondingly, he said, it has been estimated that two-thirds of the increase in productivity in America in recent decades is also attributable to advancements in science and engineering.
While today, only four percent of America’s workforce is comprised of scientists and engineers, this four percent contributes disproportionately to the creation of jobs for the other ninety-six percent. Based on this data, you can see how much of a contribution these fields have made and can make to our nation’s and our people’s prosperity – especially for our sons and daughters, and their children.
That is why in 2006, I brought the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery to math and science teachers in our grade schools across America – to allow them to carry their experience in “zero-gravity” back to the classroom and use their experience to excite their students. In 2008, we brought that experience to 60 teachers across Brevard County, this State (and to the media) and I know they had a great time! And also recognized our mutual efforts were important.
It was clear then, as it is now, that without our ability to energize millions of young people to fundamentally learn math and science and carry that energy into an undergraduate and then advanced college degree, America’s ability to maintain its global competitiveness will be shattered.
We see how our children and grandchildren have embraced technology – just look at their love of iPods, video games, MySpace and YouTube. We need to create that excitement and pull when it comes to math and science.
It is vital to our success as companies, and as a country, that our citizens – who will be our future new hires – have the right education and proper hands-on preparation to join our companies. They must be ready to innovate so they can uncover that next great technology.
Knowing all of these statistics and the impact to our community, our country and our world, you can see why there is no greater investment to make to secure America’s future – than the investment in education.
The Florida Institute of Technology and its Engineering and Science Student Design showcase, supported by this $1 million Northrop Grumman endowment, will go a long way toward accomplishing our collective goal of protecting and strengthening America’s global competitiveness and our future.
I’m honored that we have the opportunity to make a difference in your lives and our country at the same time.
As President Barak Obama stated in his Inaugural address:
“Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”
Engineers. Scientists. Technologists. They are the risk-takers, the dreamers, the doers, the makers of things. We must support them.