SAN DIEGO, Aug. 11, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- A high-level forum of industry, government and academic leaders today proposed action to ensure continued U.S. economic leadership by strengthening California's innovation and competitiveness. The West Coast Competitiveness Summit was co-sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

At the same time, some 40 distinguished teachers from the San Diego area took two "zero gravity" aircraft flights as part of the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program, which is designed to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Both events addressed the need to provide more tools and hands-on learning opportunities for teachers and students-a vital component of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative to encourage critical research and provide American children with a strong foundation in math and science.

"There's much the private sector can contribute to this national dialogue, and as an advanced technology company Northrop Grumman is doing its part," said Ronald D. Sugar, Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer, who addressed today's Summit attendees and participated in the discussion at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. "That's why we're so committed to the West Coast Competitiveness Summit, the Weightless Flights of Discovery and a number of other programs to help inspire young people."

Other Summit participants were Michael Griffin, NASA administrator; Robert C. Cresanti, undersecretary of Commerce for technology; Craig R. Barrett, chairman, Intel Corporation; Marye Anne Fox, chancellor, University of California, San Diego; Steven B. Sample, president, University of Southern California, and Sally K. Ride, a former astronaut and currently president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. George M. Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, served as the moderator.

The West Coast Summit followed a National Summit on Competitiveness held in December 2005 in Washington, D.C., which identified the seriousness of the global challenge to America's innovation leadership. Both summits were presented by members of the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, a coalition of businesses and business organizations, scientific societies and higher education associations that advocates greater federal investments for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering.

During today's discussion, participants focused on ways to foster education and basic research in California in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Summit concluded with the introduction of the San Diego teachers who participated in the weightless flights.

The Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery is a first-of-its-kind program that uses hands-on science workshops and zero-gravity flights to help educators teach students how math, science and engineering principles apply to weightless space environments.

The two flights followed a workshop Aug. 5 where teachers learned about the physics of weightlessness and what to expect on their flights. They also designed a microgravity experiment that applies principles to human activities in a weightless environment.

"I'm grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program, because it will allow me to convey challenging scientific principles in a way that bridges the gap between the laboratory and real life," said Alfonso Ortiz Garagarza, a chemistry and physics teacher at Hidden Valley Middle School in San Diego County. "Imagine the reactions of students watching a video of their teacher in a zero-gravity flight as they perform the same experiments in the earth's gravity. I hope to inspire a generation of future scientists and engineers to reach for the future as only the greatest teachers can."

Northrop Grumman worked through the Science and Technology Working Group of The San Diego Foundation to select the teachers. The California Space Authority was a regional sponsor of the flights in San Diego, the third stop in a scheduled five-region national tour that runs through September. The program will allow approximately 240 teachers to participate in 12 flights.

Northrop Grumman is the Weightless Flights of Discovery program's major sponsor. Zero Gravity (ZERO-G(r)) Corporation, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., developed and conducts this unique professional development program for teachers. Florida Space Research Institute, a research organization for the state of Florida, is providing national funding support. AOL, an industry-leading educational resource for teachers and students, serves as the program's official online, interactive Web site ( http://homeworkhelp.aol.com/zero-g ).

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With more than 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

  CONTACT:  Jim Hart
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-3616 office
          (310) 466-5509 mobile
          james.f.hart@ngc.com