Bucking Trends, National Guard Association Will Meet in Honolulu
In the age of the sequester and heightened scrutiny of government spending on meetings, the National Guard Association sees solid reasons to keep its annual conference in Hawaii.
The board of directors of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) approves the location of its annual conference, held each September, about five years ahead of time, giving the organization and the host city a good head start in preparing for the event. Back in 2008, before the GSA and IRS conference-spending scandals and the sequester made headlines and led some groups to rethink meeting locations, the NGAUS board approved Honolulu as its 2013 conference destination.
As the date approaches—and as Pentagon officials question “the wisdom of meeting in a vacation destination”—NGAUS is sticking with that plan.
“Why would we change? Just for pure perception?” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., president of NGAUS. “We’ve got so many people from Hawaii who’ve done so much work and preparation for putting this thing on. We’ve got a partnership with the state, and we will fulfill our commitment to Hawaii.”
NGAUS doesn’t use federal dollars to support the conference, and members pay their own way to attend each year, a policy Hargett recommends to other government or military associations.
“This way makes you more independent rather than having attendees try to cover it as a government expense,” he said. “You can do what you want; you can set your own program without having to meet a lot of strict guidelines and being careful with who you ask to speak and what they say.”
The group expects about 3,500 members and exhibitors to attend—slightly less than in previous years, mainly due to fewer exhibitors making the trip to Hawaii. “We understood that we would have a smaller tradeshow, because it’s always smaller when you go outside the continental U.S., with the cost of shipping stuff,” Hargett said.
Hawaii made sense for NGAUS because the focus of the Guard will be shifting to the Pacific, Hargett said: “We’re talking about where the U.S. Pacific Command is, Army Pacific, Air Pacific. It seems to be a natural place for us to have our meeting.”
Many state political figures and military leaders will provide educational content at the conference. Among the scheduled speakers are Sen. Mazie Hirono, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (a National Guardsman), and Gov. Neil Abercrombie.