Fall Meeting Proves Partnership Remains Strong Through Unprecedented Year
The NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting took place October 5-8, 2020. While this event has taken place for several years, 2020 marked the first virtual edition of the meeting. The decision to move to a virtual platform was made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Of course, we would prefer to be in St. Louis at the historic Hilton hotel, but we can do this, and we can still collaborate,” VADM William Brown, NDTA President & CEO, said of the decision.
The event brought together more than 1,500 attendees from government, military, and industry to learn and collaborate. The theme for the meeting was Innovative and Disruptive…2020 Vision for the Future. While chosen before the pandemic, the theme turned out to be especially appropriate for this year.
During his opening remarks, NDTA’s Chairman John Dietrich shared that as a young lawyer, he would read force majeure provisions in contracts and think the scenarios listed unlikely to occur. However, he has seen nearly all of those scenarios—national emergencies, acts of terrorism, acts of God, epidemics, quarantine restrictions, and natural disasters including fires, among others—come to fruition during his career.
But while 2020 and the pandemic brought immense challenges, he remained optimistic about the meeting and industry’s relationship with its government and military partners. “As a member of industry, we look forward to this event every year because it’s an environment for healthy dialog with senior leaders—and importantly—future leaders. Likewise, industry comes to the Fall Meeting to showcase our commitment to the Department of Defense as full partners in peacetime and in time of conflict. Industry will always support you.”
The Commander of USTRANSCOM, GEN Stephen Lyons, USA, expressed a similar sentiment from the military perspective, “To say this has been a challenging year might be the understatement of the year. But I can say for sure this has demonstrated, I believe, our incredible resiliency to have this event despite the pandemic and to maintain such a close relationship—perhaps even an advanced and enhanced relationship—with our industry partners during these very, very challenging times.”
He also emphasized the significance of the military-industry relationship to the Department of Defense, “It’s not lost on me, it’s not lost on the Chairman, or the Secretary of Defense how large a role that industry plays in our ability to project and sustain the Joint Force on a global scale.”
GEN Lyons would go on to give a highly discussed keynote speech on the third day of the conference in which he revealed USTRANSCOM’s work on a collaboration to explore rapid transportation through space. Other keynotes included The Honorable Jordan Gillis, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment; Bob Chapman, CEO, Chapman & Company Leadership Institute, and CEO, Barry Wehmiller; Rami Goldratt, CEO, Goldratt Group; and Dan Helfrich, CEO, Deloitte Consulting US, and Heather Reilly, Principal, and Defense, Security & Justice Sector Lead, Deloitte Consulting.
Rounding out the main session schedule were three roundtable discussions led by USTRANSCOM Senior Enlisted Leader CMSgt Jason France, USTRANSCOM Deputy Commander VADM Dee Mewbourne, and Lt Gen (Ret.) Steve Kwast, respectively.
In conjunction with the Fall Meeting, NDTA and USTRANCOM once again held Transportation Academy, which consisted of 80 educational classes. Courses covered ten separate topics, including acquisition and finance; combatant commands and security cooperation; commercial logistics; Department of Defense transportation; innovation and analytics; information technology and cyber; leadership and professional development; legislation and policy; interactive workshops and training; as well as Surface Deployment and Distribution Command workshops.
In addition, participants had the opportunity to attend a special NDTA Young Leaders Professional Development Session, as well as several meetings of the association’s committees and subcommittees. NDTA also held a virtual expo hall featuring exhibitors from the Defense Industrial Base, military, government, and academia. The expo hall offered the chance for truly interactive information sharing between attendees.
The combination of events over the meeting’s four days provided valuable opportunities for all attendees to enhance their knowledge, professional development, and networks, and to share their expertise. The NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting is a unique, trusted environment for the community it serves. The 2020 meeting proved that regardless of how or where the event occurs, its significance—and the strength of the partnership it represents—remain strong.