In the News

Moran talks strengthening military, aerospace industry in Kansas

Derby Informer | Kelly Breckunitch

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) admitted at a recent stop in Derby that the Chamber of Commerce has been pursuing him as a featured speaker for a while. While his job in the Senate keeps him busy and creates numerous scheduling conflicts, the stars aligned to allow Sen. Moran to speak at the Derby Chamber of Commerce luncheon on June 11.

It was someone else’s schedule, in fact, that allowed Moran to come to Derby – as he noted he asked Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Barbara Barrett to tour McConnell AFB back when she was a nominee for the position. June 10 and 11, 2020, were the dates that worked for her, which in turned allowed Moran to speak at the Derby chamber event.

Part of the reason Moran pushed for Barrett to come to McConnell was to see firsthand the innovation going on at the local base.

“The Air Force is trying to do things in smarter, better ways, less expensive ways; just asking the people who do these jobs every day how can we do this differently or better, or what can we make that would make your job easier? Innovation saves the Air Force and, ultimately, the taxpayers money,” Moran said.

Moran and Barrett also went on a refueling flight in one of McConnell’s KC-46A aircraft, experiencing the value it provides while also learning about challenges faced at present in efforts to make it even more of an asset.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Moran oversees prioritization of defense spending in support of armed forces. Being co-chair of the Senate Aerospace caucus as well, he is invested in both the military and commercial aspects of that industry.

“I’ve tried to put myself in position as your senator to be fully engaged in aerospace and aviation,” Moran said.

Serving as a U.S. Senator while still living in Kansas, Moran stated the commercial industry is something with which he has become extremely familiar. Flying directly from Kansas City to Washington D.C. twice a week, he has seen the changes firsthand.

On his most recent flight, Moran noted there were only eight passengers – which matters to the economy generally, but to Kansas specifically as home to aerospace manufacturers like Spirit, Textron, etc.

For that reason, Moran said he also worked to get Barrett to Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) to show off the research capabilities in Wichita that could help sustain the aerospace industry overall.

“This is an effort that’s been ongoing for the last two or three years on my part to try to get defense officials to Kansas, to Wichita in particular,” Moran said, “not only to see McConnell but to see Wichita State, Spirit and others so they can see the capabilities that we have to benefit the country, but significantly to get us to a point in which we’re not relying on air travel for every airplane job in Kansas. Can we diversify sufficiently to get us to the point in which defense helps make up in the days in which air travel is down and airlines are not buying airplanes?”

Having chaired the subcommittee that funds NASA, Sen. Moran also spoke to efforts to get Wichita area manufacturers involved in the satellite and rocket business – the former having broader implications relating back to defense and military positioning around the world.

Given the current civil unrest due to the pandemic and protests following the death of George Floyd, Moran was asked how that is impacting the military from within.

In that regard, Moran noted it is important the military remains “civilian-led” and distances itself from partisan politics.

“Life is not just politics and yet it’s become the thing that defines often what people are,” Moran said. “We need things that are not politically driven, and we need to make sure that our military remains that.”

For Moran, foreign adversaries remain the greatest threat, which makes it that much more important for the military to keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.

COVID-19 was also discussed, with Moran noting his stop in Derby was his first public speaking engagement since the height of the pandemic.

While caught unprepared initially as a country, Moran stated his view that caution and social distancing remain important.

Questioned about the potential for additional CARES funding, Moran said he sees that as likely. At the same time, as authority transitions down to local levels, he also understands the necessity of reopening businesses and local economies.

“I also know that we cannot overcome an economy that is not working with government programs and taxpayer dollars or borrowed money. There just isn’t enough for us to overcome what happens when there is little economic activity,” Moran said. “How we get back to work, I think, is hugely important.”