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d. Reemphasize the assignment of military personnel to certain graduate
schools. The very successful program of many years ago is largely
engineering manpower. Partial resolution must come through restructuring and
refocusing the engineering programs at our universities. The major changes
must come in our graduate programs whose focus over the past years has drifted
too far in the direction of pure engineering science . A major factor in solving these problems will be the rapproachment between high technology industry research programs and our university graduate programs. There are
new activities starting up to accomplish this and if they are handled with sophistication, our problems should be reduced materially.
Engineering manpower shortages are a real problem today and probably will be so in the next decade. All segments of our society, universities, industry and government, must cooperate to resolve these dilemmas at once.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present these views to your important Committee.
Mr. FUQUA. Thank you very much, Dr. Perkins.
Dr. Press, you indicated I think in your testimony that we will probably have a balance around 1990. Dr. Perkins, you suggested the shortages will continue to be more serious. Dr. PERKINS. I said for the next decade, anyway. Mr. FUQUA. There appears to be a difference of viewpoint.
Dr. PRESS. Let me supplement my comments on this topic. I am skeptical of some of the recent studies because, as I stated in my remarks, I think they have underestimated the needs of our middle level technology industries and of our smaller companies for improving their technical capability to compete with other countries.
I don't think this has adequately been taken into account. But, there are studies which suggest that by the end of the decade, the free market process will bring into balance supply and demand, except for certain fields. By the end of the decade, the same studies point up that in certain areas, in computer sciences and those highly skilled people who can design integrated circuits and program them, information communications, toxicology, biotechnology, et cetera, there will be shortages. But across the board, these studies indicate that by the end of the decade, we should have balance.
But 10 years from now, is a long time. A lot can happen in the competitive standing of this Nation in world markets over the next 10 years. I don't think we should be lulled into a sense that there is no problem because of a notion that perhaps after the decade these issues will go away.
Mr. FUQUA. But what's the average time to train an engineer? About 5 years?
Dr. PERKINS. At the BS.
Mr. FUQUA. Depending on when the demand starts moving, you could very well be delayed in achieving the manpower needs by 5 years.
Dr. PRESS. We can bring students back for master's degrees over a 1-year or 2-year period. We could have midcareer retraining programs. There is some concern that our engineering profession is graying in the sense that the average age of a practicing engineer is increasing. The most creative engineers, as in all fields, are during the years 35 to 40.
Mr. FUQUA. You want to comment on that, Dr. Perkins?
Dr. PERKINS. Well, I agree in principle. I think that as we look forward, say in the area of electronics and computer sciences and we don't see any end to the shortage. But, if you take the whole field as an entity, certainly there is going to be a lot of shifting from one part of the field to another.
I'm an aeronautical engineer, but I don't think there is any shortage of aeronautical engineers today. Whether there will be 10 years from now depends on many factors. But, I do think that we see this broad expansion of national requirements of society for engineering background.
As I pointed out, a lot of bachelor's in engineering are going to the medical schools, the business school, and the law schools. Engineering is becoming a very pervasive field. It supports many things which it never did 10 years ago. My instinct-certainly none of us know for sure—is that this demand and this problem is going to be with us for years. We better get at it.
Mr. FUQUA. The American Association of Electronic Engineers estimate a shortage of 110,000 electronic engineers by 1985. The thing that concerns me, Dr. Press, about the marketplace taking care of it is that by the time we achieve that equilibrium of demand and numbers, what will happen to our economic competitive edge during that period of time where we have lost a lot of computer science industry to other countries, namely Japan?
The statistics show a rather rapid increase over the last number of years in advanced degrees and engineering in Japan, much higher per capita than in the United States. Those are things that concern me.
We had General Marsh testify yesterday, who is the head of the Air Force Systems Command. He testified that he was 10 percent short of engineers today and saw this as a critical matter in the future, just in manning military contracts and the inefficiencies that builds in because you have inexperienced nonengineers or maybe they are inexperienced engineers. These are the things that concern me.
You mentioned in your testimony the alarming slippage of comparative quality regarding scientific and engineering faculties compared with those of some of the other industrial nations. That in itself is rather alarming.
Dr. PRESS. I share those concerns with you, Chairman Fuqua. It was brought home to me Monday night when I visited the president of a corporation in Dallas. The growth limitation on his business today, he told me—it is a major corporation-is the availability of manpower. He has the capital, the know-how, the technology. He conducts business not only in this country but as well in a worldwide market.
I think many companies are beginning to realize that these bottlenecks, the shortages of manpower will restrict our ability to compete and to grow economically as a nation.
Mr. FUQUA. Dr. Perkins, in your view, have the university-industry cooperative programs such as those supported by NSF been useful in trying to address some of the questions you raised in your testimony?
Dr. PERKINS. Well, they used to be. The new ones that are being generated give hope that we will get some of them back on the track. Certainly back before World War II or in that era, industry was heavily involved with graduate programs in universities.
I remember in 1939, I was going to MIT. There was industrial support of the research programs at MIT. Since that time, it has dropped to nearly zero. It is all being supported by NASA, Air Force, Navy, and so on. But, I think the new feeling is that industry has got to get back into it. The thing that concerns me the most is that if they do get back into it, they should do it with real problems, not just handouts.
That would be deadening to the program. But, to give a program to MIT to solve one of their real problems, that's something else. That will solve the faculty pay, and the student excitement as well.
One of our main problems is that the excitement in the graduate programs in universities is being diminished. The excitement has largely moved to industry. That is one of the reasons, besides that of money, that the bachelors are all moving there. That's where the excitement is.
Mr. FUQUA. We hope some of the provisions in the new tax bill will help stimulate that, both actual research and I think as one of you mentioned, instrumentation.
Dr. PERKINS. I can't emphasize enough my feeling on this. In industry or Government, whatever is done should be done with a real quid pro quo, not just handouts. The Government is doing it through basic research programs with our universities. They should be encouraged to continue. Harold Brown when he was Secretary of Defense and John McLucas when he was Secretary of the Air Force sent out memoranda to their staffs saying that he wanted to be sure that they understood that he wanted a major part of basic research programs to go to universities.
Mr. FUQUA. I certainly agree. One of the concerns that we have is that programs such as NSF are being cut back.
Dr. PERKINS. Yes; that's a problem. It is not such a big problem in the engineering side mainly because there is so much of the engineering research supported by the operating agencies. I did some looking around. I found that MIT had $100 million worth of sponsored research in engineering across the board, of which $3 million or so came from the NSF. Therefore, the NSF is not a large part of the problem.
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The main support at MIT is Defense, NASA, Transportation, Energy, and so on. I don't think many people in my own university arena understood that.
Mr. FUQUA. Not all universities are MIT's.
Dr. PRESS. I should point out that a good portion of this $100 million goes to Lincoln Laboratory, a laboratory exclusively dedicated to defense research that is off-campus and managed by MIT.
Mr. FUQUA. Mr. Dunn?
Mr. Dunn. Mr. Perkins, I appreciate your testimony, particularly the last set of recommendations you had. I'm from a university community. I'm well aware of a couple of problems you talked about. One, the problem of making sure that a certain percentage of our professors on any university staff have industry background.
I think that applies to the department of engineering as well as any department in a university. Number two, discouraging them from, once they have done the basic research, letting it leave their own house as you pointed out. Coming from a university community, I'm well aware of the resentments and jealousies that build up between the two different factions in the community.
I support your suggestions. I wonder if I couldn't have some more details on how to get beyond that? What are you suggesting? Maybe that we establish some sort of quota system that we would pull back on Federal funding if the university doesn't establish a certain percentage of professors? I don't think you are suggesting that.
But, I would like detail on how to implement the kind of recommendations that you are talking about. I strongly support them.
Dr. PERKINS. Are you referring to the number of faculty that have industrial background, or how we keep the operating-keep the research from being pulled in-house? There are two different questions.
In Defense, it needed a letter from Harold Brown and John McLucas to the agencies to say don't pull this in-house. Leave it at the engineering schools.
Mr. Dunn. I thought you were talking about once an engineering school does research, then not letting it out. That is a problem, too.
Dr. PERKINS. It is a problem, too, but not the one I am referring to. NASA laboratories, for example, in aeronautics, might say well, we will give a contract for research to Purdue or Michigan State to do some research on air foils. The staff will say we can do that much better in-house.
But, on the other hand, they have a responsibility to insure that Michigan State has some real problems. It helps solve many of our problems.
Mr. Dunn. Do you have any idea at the Federal level what we could do in terms of establishing guidelines to make sure that departments have a certain percentage of staff with industry background. Have you any ideas on that?
Dr. PERKINS. It is a matter of a mental state. I spent all of my career at Princeton. Now, it is kind of un-American or un-Princetonian or something to have an adjunct professor. How can you have anybody that comes from the outside industry to mix successfully in this academic environment?
Two of the most successful faculty at Princeton did have such appointments. They both worked for Bell Labs and they both won Nobel Prizes. But, they were half-time at Princeton and half-time at Bell Labs. It worked fine. But, it is very difficult to do that.
Mr. Dunn. If you have any specifics about how we might implement that, I would appreciate it.
Mr. FUQUA. Thank you, Mr. Dunn. Mr. Brown?
Mr. BROWN. I'm not sure I really have any questions. I would like to offer an observation. Maybe it will solicit some comments.
It seems to me that the major focus of what you are saying is that the immediate problem, engineering manpower shortage, and the quantity of engineering manpower, is really a subset of the problems of how we build quality institutions and quality programs in general. That if we had an ideal type system-and I tend to do a lot of Utopian thinking—I'm one of these compulsive Utopians. If we had an ideal system, it would have the proper mixtures of relationships between industry and government and the educational institutions. We wouldn't criticize our universities for being ivory towers. They would be a part of the community in which they existed. They would be familiar with the excitement that is going on in there.
By the same token, the people working in the industry or in the government would be familiar with the excitement that exists in the university and we would get the best.
So, our fundamental goal really is to have a sound concept of the ideal system that we want to create and work very hard to create it and it will tend to relieve some of these sorts of cyclical problems that we have with fluctuating demand.
Our planning will be better because the various parts of the system will know what the other parts are doing and we will be able to project better 5 or 10 years from now. Individuals will be able to anticipate.
Now, am I correct in this? Because if I am, it leads me to give even more importance to this question of trying to define what the ideal structure is and how we can help to create it rather than focusing on the short-term problems that come up. I have seen these cycles of excess and nonexcess of engineers now for the last 40 years. I am sure you have, also.
All right, that's my question.
Dr. PERKINS. The answer to your question is that's what we must find that solution today in spite of the fact that we have broken these things into pieces and they don't fit well. I don't know whether I was testifying before you, but I made the point that Alan Plunkett, the president of Hughes, one time told us that he didn't want Ph. D.'s out at MIT or Cal Tech anymore before they weren't any use to Hughes when he got them. Therefore, he was going to the schools picking off the top BS candidates before they were ruined by the graduate programs.
Then, they took them into Hughes where the excitement was and where the top innovators were and then they gave them inhouse courses and so on to bring up their educational level. That's part of the problem. That should not be.