NDTA Foundation Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Jan 17, 2022 | Defense Transportation Journal, DTJ Online

The year 2021 represented a very special occasion for NDTA and the NDTA Foundation: it marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Foundation. Since its founding, one of the missions of NDTA has been “to support, conduct and assist programs of transportation education, science, research, and development, among private, industrial, educational and governmental agencies…” These programs required funding and, on June 30, 1961, the Association established the NDTA Foundation as a separate 501(c)(3) corporate entity to raise and provide the funds needed to accomplish this mission.1

The Foundation has its own Board of Trustees, which consists of NDTA’s:

  • President,
  • Chairman of the Board,
  • Three most recent Chairmen of the Board,
  • Vice Chairman of the Board,
  • Vice President – Foundation; who also serves as Chair of the NDTA Foundation Committee,
  • Vice President – Education,
  • Vice President – Finance,
  • Vice President – General Counsel, and
  • Secretary/Treasurer

The Early Years
During its first twenty years, the Foundation sponsored many different activities:

  • Funded research projects driven by specific requests from US Government partners. Sample projects included studies on how to optimize small shipments within the Department of Defense (DOD) and how to improve Red Cross vehicle and logistics support. The number of requests quickly outstripped the availability of funds.
  •  Published industry reports such as “The Role of Transportation in the United States Conflicts” written by NDTA member Dr. E.W. Williams of Columbia University—or compendia of presentations given at NDTA-sponsored events, such as the DOD Container Seminar of 1968.
  • Underwrote administrative costs of the Industry Advisory Committees (IACs) NDTA set up to advise military commanders on transportation issues/challenges. At the time, the IACs operated as tiger teams, addressing specific topics. They were so successful that they evolved into the standing functional committees that have become an integral part of today’s NDTA organization.
  • In 1968, the Foundation participated in Operation Handi-Vet, a national program sponsored by the President’s Council for Employment of the Handicapped designed to find jobs in industry for disabled Vietnam War veterans. The Foundation undertook finding job opportunities in the defense transportation industry, identified viable candidates, and matched them with the jobs available.
  • Awarded Life Memberships annually to members under 40 years of age from each of the Association’s nine regions, who were selected by a special committee for their outstanding contributions to NDTA.

One year, the Foundation even sponsored a College Essay Contest which, alas, was not very successful.

A New Focus
In 1983, the Foundation established an academic scholarship program. Its first award consisted of two $500 scholarships. The winners were William Pownell, President of the University of Maryland NDTA Student Chapter, and Alfredo Cavazos, Jr., a member of the San Antonio Chapter. Ever since then, the Foundation has been awarding scholarships. As a result of generous contributions, judicious investments, surplus operating funds, and fundraising activities such as the Duck Races, golf tournaments, and 5K races, the value and number of scholarships has steadily increased. Since 2007, the Foundation has awarded over $530,000 in scholarships to 276 students.

Initially, scholarships were awarded to enrolled college students studying/majoring in the field of transportation. Qualifying fields of study were later expanded to include logistics, supply chain, physical distribution, and passenger travel services. The program was then opened to college-bound high school graduates interested in careers in these fields. In recent years, to address the needs of deployed personnel, the program was further expanded to include students enrolled in distance-learning college programs.

The NDTA scholarship has impacted my academic and professional career immensely. The scholarship funds supported me in studying at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business with a concentration in Supply Chain Management. Having the support while exploring this field at University gave me the chance to understand that Supply Chain was in my blood. My grandfather, and main supply chain supporter, Gene Losa retired as a Colonel in the Army focusing in logistics and always encouraged me to join the NDTA community. The significance of the scholarship stemmed from the supporting funds and evolved into the community that NDTA is and will be supporting my future in the Supply Chain industry.

Grayson Steigler

Attended Northeastern University from 2015-2020; a 5-year program. Currently working as a Buyer in the Strategic Sourcing department of a Biotech company called Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

I am grateful to be a recipient of the NDTA Scholarship. Receiving this prestigious award helped me and my parents immensely to offset the financial burden that comes with a college education. Upon graduation from California Maritime Academy, I started my career at General Dynamics, NASSCO in San Diego in Supply Chain. It’s been 5 years later, and I’ve had the opportunity for internal growth and movement within the company. I love the transportation industry and so happy I chose a career in shipping. During the past year, we have witnessed the vital role that transportation has played in the movement of goods and services.
Natalie Laconsay

Attended California Maritime Academy from 2012-2016. Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in International Business and Logistics in 2016. Currently works for General Dynamics, NASSCO in San Diego in Supply Chain.

The Prosperous Years
The increased levels of defense spending, particularly over the early 2000s, afforded a high level of professional development activities such as conferences, tradeshows, training, and education, for DOD, military, and industry personnel. Like many industry associations, NDTA flourished. The Association’s conferences, such as the SDDC Training Symposium and the Annual NDTA Forum and Exhibition, were well attended by participants and exhibitors. In fact, the Association was constantly setting attendance records at its conferences, which were held in cities across the US—as far as Alaska.

This prosperous environment was very beneficial to the Foundation and the Scholarship Program. The conferences provided the opportunity to hold fundraising events. Activities such as the Forum’s Duck Race, the Golf Tournament, Grand Prize Raffle, and the 5K Run generated a substantial amount of money for scholarships. But of greater financial impact were the proceeds from conference registrations and exhibitors’ fees, a portion of which the NDTA national organization contributed to the Foundation. These monies made it possible to fund the scholarships without having to withdraw any money from the core scholarship fund (which consists of investments) and thus enabled it to continue to grow.

As a result, the Foundation has been able to increase the amount available for annual scholarships from $20,000 in 2007 to nearly $60,000 last year. The average annual scholarship award went up from $870—which today might cover, at most, one semester’s worth of textbooks and a couple of fees—to $4,300. This increased funding has enabled the Foundation to achieve its goal of awarding scholarships that would make a significant, rather than just a token, contribution towards making college affordable for students.

The World Changes
Then, a confluence of events transformed our world…

First were the significant reductions in defense spending spurred by the burgeoning budget deficit and the drawdown of US Armed Forces in Iraq. In August 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced an initiative to save $178 billion in defense spending over the next five years, of which $78 billion were outright spending cuts. Eight months later, President Obama mandated an additional $400 billion in cuts over the next 12 years. Then, in early 2013, came the event nobody expected would happen: budget sequestration. The Budget Control Act of 2011 automatic spending cuts, enacted March 1, 2013, reduced defense spending by $454 billion between 2013 and 2021.

Within DOD and the Services, non-mission-critical expenditures such as professional development, training, and non-essential travel were slashed—eliminated in most cases. Funding for attending conferences disappeared. On the industry side, the cuts resulted in the cancellation of numerous multi-billion dollar weapon systems and contractor services contracts. This, in turn, led to the loss of a large number of jobs and severe belt-tightening in companies’ budgets for conferences, tradeshows, and professional development.

To compound the problem, a scandal involving extravagant spending at a General Services Administration conference in 2011 resulted in a government-wide clampdown on conference participation. This development, by itself, had a significant chilling effect on conference programs and attendance. With the exception of end-of-day networking receptions, social and fundraising activities disappeared from conference programs.

The impact of all these events was that, almost overnight, attendance of DOD and civilian government personnel to industry conferences vaporized and participation by industry, particularly exhibitors, dramatically decreased. Many conferences, including the NDTA annual meeting, were cancelled in 2013. Industry associations lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-refundable deposits.

Just as the industry was starting to recover, COVID-19 hit in 2019—again causing massive conference cancellations and losses. With the advent of the COVID vaccination, the community and industry are just starting to recover again.

The impact on NDTA of these cataclysmic events over the past decade has been a considerable drop in proceeds from the annual meeting. With no more fundraising activities or surplus proceeds from the annual meeting, the major sources of funds for scholarships have disappeared at a time when they are needed the most.

As the cost of attending college has risen astronomically in the past 10-15 years, so has the amount of debt students have had to take on to earn a degree. Student-loan debt has surpassed $1.7 trillion and is now greater than credit card and auto loan debt in the US.2 The Class of 2021 graduated with an average debt of $36,900, which has been increasing at an annual rate of 7.8%. Student loan debt at graduation has grown 76% since the Class of 2000, a rate of increase that outpaces the rate of inflation by 41%.3 Furthermore, a 2020 survey by the educational company OneClass of 10,839 college students attending 255 schools across the US found that a staggering 56% of the students are no longer able to afford tuition.4 This is an unsustainable trend. Easing the burden of a college education for the future leaders of our profession is now a major priority for the Foundation.

I was very honored to have been selected as the recipient of the NDTA Scholarship. Being [it] was my last year in college, I am deeply appreciative for the support the NDTA gave me during the conclusion of my college career. This scholarship helped me achieve my goal of graduating Summa Cum Laude in one of the best undergraduate Supply Chain programs in the country. Thank you once again for your academic assistance.

Evan Kellner Ramsey

Attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and graduated in May of 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a dual concentration in Supply Chain Management and Business Analytics. Currently working for Smithfield Foods in their Supply Chain department with the Supply Chain Career Foundation Program, CFP Supply Chain Associate.

The Way Forward
Given this shortfall in funding, if the Foundation is to continue to increase the number of scholarship awards and value of the awards, it will need to rely on the generosity of NDTA members: both individuals and corporate members. To that end, the Foundation is embarking on a fundraising campaign.

Many of our corporate members have foundations or corporate giving programs that support charitable organizations/programs and are in a position to give sizable donations. FedEx Corporation, for example, has generously contributed to the Foundation $10,000 a year for many years. In fact, FedEx will be inducted into the NDTA Foundation’s Hall of Fame at this year’s Fall Meeting for having contributed $125,000 to the Foundation since 2006. Yellow Corporation will also be recognized during the Fall Meeting for their contributions.

What is clear is that, more than ever, the Foundation and the Scholarship Program are going to need much support from our members. This is a very important program that helps our next generation of leaders afford a college education without having to mortgage their future with debt. If you have never contributed to the Foundation, this is a great time to start. If you have been a past donor, thank you and, if it’s possible for you, please consider an increase in your contribution. Donations by credit card can be made on the NDTA website at www.ndtahq.com. If you prefer to pay by check, send to:

NDTA Foundation
50 South Pickett Street, Suite 220
Alexandria, Virginia 22304

The Foundation also accepts donations in forms of securities.
Please contact the office at 703-751-5011 for additional information.
Your contributions are tax-deductible.


By Larry Larkin, Vice President, NDTA Foundation, & Chair, NDTA Foundation Committee


1  In 1968, the Foundation was brought under the NDTA structure though it still operates as a separate non-profit entity.
2  Student Loan Debt Statistics in 2021: A Record $1.7 Trillion by Zack Friedman. Forbes.com. 20 February 2021.
3  Average Student Loan Debt by Year by Melanie Hanson. educationdata.org. Updated 21 July 2021.
4  How Has the Pandemic Affected Your Ability to Afford School? OneClass Blog. OneClass.com. 1 Jun 2020.

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