Wichita Sen. Sam Brownback pledged Friday to fight for funding for Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research, even as he works to balance the federal budget in seven years.
Brownback's remarks at a gathering for the institute came just days after President Bush unveiled a new budget proposal that included a projected record deficit of $521 billion.
Friday, Wichita's most powerful leaders in government, higher education and aviation gathered to support the research facility and its recently appropriated $8 million in new federal funding.
"Underneath that total budget picture, I am going to fight for everything I can for Kansas that is a worthwhile program -- and this is an enormously worthwhile program in an incredibly competitive environment," said Brownback, R-Kan.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan. has said he would support only a budget that freezes all discretionary spending, except for defense and homeland security, at 2004 levels.
But Tiahrt told Kansas reporters gathered at the event that he was referring to the total dollars spent.
"I will do everything within my power to make sure, when it impacts the 4th District of Kansas, that we will be able to match the vision with the dollars -- and certainly there is a strong vision with what is going on here," Tiahrt said.
Among the programs for which the institute has received recent funding:
- Federal Aviation Administration research, including $4 million for facilities and equipment.
- The FAA Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials, approved last December to conduct research on the use of advanced materials and composites in aircraft.
- The NASA National Center for Advanced Materials Performance, established through a $3 million grant
- Aircraft Icing Research, an additional $1 million appropriation to enhance aircraft safety.
Both Tiahrt and Brownback also promised to fight to keep aviation jobs in Wichita. The point was not lost on Boeing-Wichita general manager Jeff Turner and Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton, who both later noted it in their own comments to reporters.
"We know that our industry is a major contributor to the economic vitality of our city and our state. We know at the same time we are facing global competition in a global economic environment that is far different than in the past," Turner said. "We will not be able to do it alone."