March 15, 2013
Fellow SETP members,
We live in interesting times. Particularly for our US-based members, and especially for our government members, the impact of sequestration on the US federal budget has and will continue to have a very significant and growing effect on how SETP conducts its business.
Some of the impacts of sequestration include cancellation of all non-mission critical temporary duty travel, conferences and symposia; furloughs for government civilian personnel, and other cost-savings measures. These measures are on top of already significantly more difficult paths for Department of Defense-funded conference attendance approval in the wake of 2010’s General Services Administration scandal that continued into 2012.
SETP’s symposia model has been to support and encourage regional symposia, and then to offer the best papers at the regional symposia a chance to present at the Anaheim International Symposium. Obviously, cancellation of travel authority and restrictions to DoD attendance at conferences and symposia potentially directly impact that model, and especially for some sections, such as the Southeast and East Coast symposia. We were fortunate in 2012 to have military leadership who went out on a limb to support attendance at Anaheim. The last minute approval, however, seriously hurt military attendance, and had the potential to cripple the Society’s “financial engine”. Despite these challenges, JB’s team was able to make the symposium a success. However, the deeper cuts of sequestration have made the previous challenges seem simple. SETP will not be able to continue in a “business as usual” mode, while depending on the previous model.
We are not throwing up our hands. Instead, we are actively engaged in finding ways to have regional symposia at more convenient and cost-effective locations. Most recently, the Southeast Section symposium was moved from off-base to the Eglin AFB Officer’s Club. In addition, the symposium team aggressively sought sponsorship for the symposium. The result of their efforts was a zero-cost symposium, with lunch the only fee. Finally, the symposium was well-attended by active-duty, industry, government civilian and retired personnel. The engagement of those who attended with those who presented was exactly what we hope for in our symposia: simply exceptional! I know the West Coast Section and the East Coast Section are each working hard to answer the same challenges and more for their symposia respectively at San Diego on March 22nd – 23rd and at Pax River on April 12th.
Sponsorship helps, but that well’s depth is finite, and many of the sponsoring contractors will themselves be affected by sequestration. As a result, the Anaheim International Symposium and Banquet team, led by Colonel Roderick “Trash” Cregier, has been challenged to balance the desire for a quality symposium which is attractive to attendees due to the opportunity for professional learning and networking, while thoughtfully eliminating costs not adding value to our members. Don’t worry; he’s not out looking for a monastery to host the symposium, with a convenient adjacent Motel 6. In fact, the decision under the leadership of Doug Shane to go with a long-term contract with the Grand Californian, made in more robustly-funded times, has proven to be very cost-effective: you can’t show up just anywhere with 600+ people and find lodging and banquet facilities. In addition, there are significant transportation and set-up costs associated with moving the SETP office and the audio-visual setup from Southern California to the symposium location that would be far greater if they were somewhere outside of driving distance.
Trash and his team are working hard to create a symposium that people will pay their own money for, and dedicate their own time off for, whether it’s vacation, leave or permissive TDY. He and his team are looking to show value, and I believe they’re on the right track. Your education doesn’t stop with a formal school, or with exposure to on-the-job training in your first flight test organization - a continuing investment in yourself is needed, and our goal is to provide that to you. This is consistent with other professions; I invite you to compare our membership and symposia costs with costs for continuing education and currency for other professions, or even within our own profession, such as FAA Designated Engineering Representative initial or recurrent training, or any of the Flight Safety Foundation symposia.
Here’s what I need you to do: Try to fit attending one of the regional symposia or the International Symposium and Banquet into your plans. If your organization can support you attending, great! If not, work your budgets, leave and vacation time, and see if you can do it yourself. Our pledge to you is to make your attendance worth your time, effort and money.
The Society of Experimental Test Pilots