The widely held perception is that US aerospace and defense companies have weathered sequestration. But even if true, the consequences to our nation of arguably reckless budget cuts are troubling. In the midst of a five-year substantial downturn in defense spending, geopolitical threats are more widespread and significant than in any time since the end of the Cold War. Like the pre-9/11 era, domestic spending priorities, growing instability in unfriendly regions, and political rather than proactive decision-making carries the day.

From the Islamic State group, to Russia, to North Korea and the constant threat of terrorism, the world is more dangerous, not less, as would be expected in a time of declining defense spending.

Through this uncertainty, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has retained its focus. We continue to make our collective voices heard, reaching out to our elected officials, government leaders and policymakers. During AIA's November meeting with Defense Department leaders, our members expressed their commitment to support the troops, their views on the challenges posed by "doing more with less" and their corresponding concerns about the expanding regulatory burdens imposed on industry.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Defense News asked 15 thought leaders in military, government, academia and industry -- from Europe to Asia to the US to the Middle East -- for their perspectives on their region and how they fit into world events. The result is a comprehensive collection of viewpoints that puts 2014 into context while forecasting the challenges -- and what must be done to meet them -- in 2015.

Photo Credit: Staff

Controlling costs is on everyone's mind as we settle into this new era. Policymakers must focus on being proactive about the country's future. We must invest in R&D. Clear, long-term planning and security-driven budgets will help sustain the innovation that has made US defense and aerospace companies global leaders.

As we look to 2015, we welcome dialogue with Congress and the administration about the means to preserve America's leading role in maintaining global peace and security. Our industry plays a pivotal role in helping to defend the nation against enemies. In addition, we supply innovations that extend beyond national defense. Much of the technology that we use every day has its origins in the aerospace and defense industry. We need to reinforce this message because it sparks enthusiasm in the next generation.

We desperately need to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology. We cannot — and will not — allow our best innovations to be behind us. We are committed to STEM education — a critical component for the long-term growth and health of our country.

Despite these challenges, I am an optimist. I believe America will commit the resources to confront its obstacles. Best of all, our men and women in uniform are beyond compare. They provide the inspiration and the incentive to do our best. Together, we will meet our challenges and rise above them.