The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) moved quickly to reassure the defense industry early Jan. 24 that its annual winter meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was still scheduled after its president, retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, told a breakfast meeting that “as of right now” the annual convention is a go, but “we will let you know if that changes.”
Along with the trade association’s larger meeting each October in Washington, the two AUSA-sponsored events draw thousands of active-duty soldiers, defense industry members and the press, standing as the Army’s largest events of the year.
But the show has seen significant declines in attendance over the past two years due to budget pressures within the Army and in industry.
Soon after Sullivan’s comments, AUSA released a statement saying that the organization is “analyzing the courses of action that we can take to provide value at the Winter Symposium” given its smaller nature, but emphasized that the winter event “is going forward as planned.” The letter concluded by warning, “while Army participation may be reduced, per the Secretary’s guidance, there will be an Army presence at this meeting, according to our current understanding.”
The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, which is overseeing the decision-making process, has not yet responded to a request for comment, though a spokesman told Defense News on Jan. 23 that discussions are ongoing and no decision had yet been reached.
Several sources close to the decision-making process in the Army have confirmed to Defense News that the uniformed presence at the Winter AUSA show will be down sharply from previous years. The service requested travel for 200 uniformed personnel, to include program executive officers and their staffs, but the service will likely only receive travel waivers for about 100 attendees, the sources said.
At the larger meeting in Washington in October, the Army was forced to scale back from a planned 75 booths to just one. While about 5,000 fewer people attended the event, the Army allowed 400 people to use government funds to attend the show.
Defense powerhouses such as BAE Systems, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, ATK, SAIC, Textron, Rockwell Collins, ITT Exelis and General Dynamics Land Systems have decided not to buy floor space at the event, according to the most recent floor plan for the convention center in Fort Lauderdale. Several of those companies likely will occupy suites above the convention floor for meetings and will continue to sponsor breakfasts and events at the conference, company representatives told Defense News.