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Unemployed in Aerospace Field

January 05, 1994

* I was an Southland aerospace engineer for 30 years, beginning in 1958. The Times' series on the plight of ex-aerospace workers (Dec. 19-21) should lead us to reflect seriously on the excesses of the Cold War period and hopefully learn from the experience. We were warned by Dwight Eisenhower to little avail in the 1950s of the dangers of unbridled militaristic power unleashed during World War II. In the ensuing decades, this military/industrial complex cultivated and nurtured a public hysteria against the "Red Menace" and reaped the benefits of exotic technical weapons development deemed imperative to defeat the Evil Empire.

The fringe benefits for many of us were an inflated standard of living, for which we now suffer. More tragic is the legacy left to our children by the so-called golden years of the Cold War: an astronomical national debt, multimillion-dollar obsolete bombers and silos now drawing dust, and reeking nuclear arsenals and production facilities requiring decades of cleanup effort as they contaminate our environment.


San Pedro

* When told that we were about to lose our aerospace industry, our politicians said that they would take no action, because this was only 8% of California's work force.

We also have the state universities trying to get in on the gravy. You have to realize that these schools are a publicly funded industry that gets paid without a market for its product.

Your article stated that for the first time, universities were getting in on retraining. Not so! In 1970, UC Irvine started a master's in environmental engineering.

A second government-funded program accepted 100 of us and the government paid $80,000 for our 16 weeks of retraining as environmental engineers. There was a $20,000 incentive if a majority of us found employment after retraining. Two people found jobs. We all got our GS ratings from the government, but were told that the EPA would not hire us.

My alma mater, Long Beach State, had mailed offers of employment assistance, so I went to the placement office. There were no jobs for engineers, but there were lots of papers offering federal financial aid for teaching applicants. This was at a time when Ph.D.s in education were driving taxis. I sensed that something was amiss and went home.

We hear the government platitudes about education being the answer to all problems. We engineers can't even get jobs teaching math and science to students.

Sorry if I sound bitter, but government isn't the answer, it's the problem.



* I have the utmost sympathy for out-of-work aerospace engineers, but feel that The Times, Rep. Jane Harman and others ignore the problems that many others face.

When aerospace engineers lost their jobs, so did the word processors, secretaries, human resources and financial personnel who supported these engineers. Like the engineers, many of these people have depleted their unemployment benefits, reduced their lifestyle and borrowed money; however, I don't see the media bringing these problems to public attention. Highly educated aerospace engineers are having a tough time; so are others who need the same support.


Rancho Palos Verdes

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