Taking Your Voice to the Capitol
It has been a busy month indeed. Seems like I was meeting every week with our Executive Director in Washington, representing you on some key Army Aviation issues. Most importantly, on May 20th the National Commission on the Future of the Army asked AAAA to present our views on the future aviation force.
Our comments were well received by the Commission. The main point we made was that the Army Restructuring Initiative (ARI) is a symptom of a much greater problem of declining budgets. The Defense Budget is the issue that must be addressed. We need MORE combat aviation brigades (CABs) not less, MORE Aviation capability not less, and MORE trained and ready troops if we are to be ready to answer the call to meet our Army’s requirements. Here are the key points from our presentation.
- The AAAA represents the Total Army Aviation force and members of industry. Due to this, AAAA’s goal is to remain neutral on topics that may be seen as adverse to some elements of their membership. AAAA supports all members, industry, and all components of the Army.
- AAAA supports the Army’s efforts to create a more modern, ready and affordable structure but has not made any specific statements on ARI or the transfer of AH-64s from the Army National Guard.
- AAAA supports a more robust Army Aviation force across all components due to the high demands on our aviation units and Soldiers as they meet the national security strategy of the United States. The AAAA is concerned about the long term health and welfare of Aviation Soldiers and their Families because of the extremely high OPTEMPO on Army Aviation forces.
- AAAA is supportive of the Army as it builds a more capable force available to support our warfighting demands, homeland defense, and disaster relief missions as well as other future requirements. This capability increase is made possible by maintaining the best equipped and trained force possible in the Regular Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve.
- AAAA supports the ongoing and continued modernization of the total force. It is critical for the Army to continue to invest in Army Aviation modernization programs so they remain on schedule and provide the total Army with the most capable aviation platforms and components.
- AAAA remains steadfast in its support for maintaining the best trained and most ready aviation force in the world to support the Soldier on the ground.
The bottom line is that we told the commission the numbers we are hearing for monthly flight time are too low, the OPTEMPO will meet or exceed the height of combat in OEF/OIF and is much too high, and we could be setting ourselves up to repeat our experience of TF Hawk in 1999 if the Defense Budget remains under the Budget Control Act and sequestration.
Next, I want to also give a quick update concerning AAAA Summit news. The survey results are in. Jenn Chittem, our Marketing and Communication Director informs us that over 97% of the respondents were Satisfied or Very Satisfied with the 2015 Summit and felt it met their objectives. The biggest takeaway was that a significant number felt that time was now quite tight with the 2.5 day program and would like maybe an extra half day to get meetings done both AAAA chapter/membership centric; and business to business/business to Army. We are looking at that right now for 2016 in Atlanta April 27-30. We will have a draft program by late summer to share so we can all start planning. Again, our conventions/summits contracts are signed at least five years in advance. Make sure they are on your calendars. Right now we are booked all the way out to 2021. See quad-a.org for specific dates.
Also on the Summit for 2016, we have had an amazing pre-booking of exhibits for next year. For the first time ever, we offered our 2015 Summit exhibitors a chance to lock in for the following year if they did so by June 1. I am happy to report over 70 corporations have booked over $1,000,000 already for the 2016 event with over 20% actually increasing their booth sizes over 2015. This is a very good sign for being able to sustain our level of support to our chapters, scholarship program, Army Aviation Museum, etc. in the future.
Speaking of chapters, on May 21st, the Keystone Chapter, Pennsylvania, hosted a luncheon and AAAA membership drive. They proposed a special pilot program for attendees to have a one-time opportunity to sign-up for an AAAA Life Membership (normally $480) at a significantly reduced cost (one-day only $250). Our VP Membership, CW5 (Ret.) Dave Cooper; VP Chapters, LTC (Ret.) Jan Drabczuk; and Barbara and Deb from the National Office, quickly put together a plan and we did just that. The results were amazing as 56 new Life Members signed on the spot! We will be looking at the possibility of rolling out similar one-day events across the AAAA chapter spectrum in the future you can be sure.
Finally, Bill Harris and I met with our chairman of the AAAA Senior Executive Associates, former VCSA, GEN Jack Keane, in DC to see how we can continue to evolve the program to make it even more effective as a tool to get your issues in front of key decision makers in government and industry.
Bottom line is that from tactical chapter issues and individual memberships to advocating for Army Aviation Force Structure that has strategic consequences, AAAA is there for you, the Army Aviation Soldier and Family. Let us know how we can do even better. Have a great summer!
BG E.J. Sinclair, Ret.
32nd President, AAAA