JETC: Opening General Session

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In a morning that began with stirring renditions of patriotic and gospel songs from the local Cypress Springs High School Chorus and culminated with The Honorable Tom White, former Secretary of the Army, reminding the audience that the United States, more than anywhere else in the world, has the opportunity to open up markets, create competition and drive solutions and innovation, attendees at the opening general session of the 2015 JETC no doubt came away with one thought: America’s future is bright.

Before Secretary White took the stage at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, SAME President John Mogge gave the annual “State of the Society” address. Mogge touched on the focus of the national leadership team over the past year to reinvigorate SAME as One Society, to rebuild this mantra through Posts and members at the local and regional levels and to reorient the national headquarters staff to enable Posts and volunteers to be able to succeed in supporting SAME’s mission and focus areas.

“This is not your father’s SAME,” Mogge said. And that’s a good thing he noted, as it means that the Society is evolving and remaining relevant to change as the organization nears its centennial in 2020.

Mogge brought up five charges that he is asking the membership to consider, in order to remain evolving and relevant to change. He called out Marv Fisher, Carrie Ann Williams, Wendy Parker, Maj. Matt Altman, USAF, and Bob Schlesinger—each of whom has agreed to take on one of the five charges and spearhead member involvement to ensure they are achieved.

The five charges are:

  • What is tomorrow’s value proposition for members?
  • What makes SAME unique among its peers?
  • How do we raise the level of engagement among members?
  • How do we make SAME The Society of Choice?
  • What does it take to keep us aligned as One Society?

 

Mogge also detailed how SAME at local, national and regional levels have supported the past year’s three focus areas: maintaining relevance, STEM outreach, and support to veterans.

One story he shared encompasses supporting all three focus areas: it’s the story of the formation of a new Student Chapter at the University of South Florida. The SAME Tampa Bay Post has a large number of veterans, with 150 studying some sort of STEM-related degree program. There was mutual interest in establishing a relationship between the Post and the school. The night of the first meeting, 51 students signed up to be members. Soon after, another 30 students signed up. As the year moved along, and it came close to graduation, the school requested that the Post support the graduating veterans with interview and resume training and reviews. More than 20 Sustaining Members of the Post participated, helping these transitioning veterans who will soon enter industry looking for opportunities in STEM fields. And of all the veterans who attended the resume/interview training who were not members of SAME when they walked in the room By the end of the night, all had signed up. Strengthening America’s global technical future, supporting the nation’s warriors, and maintaining relevance: that is all achievable.

Mogge further challenged each member of the audience to give four hours this year supporting a youth in STEM outreach. Just four hours multiplied across SAME’s 30,000 members can make an amazing impact.

Mogge also challenged the industry firms in the audience to hire veterans, assuring them they would not be disappointed. He reminded all the veterans in the audience that the is still much work to be done, even if progress is being made. “We are the fortunate ones,” he said, as veterans who have transitioned successfully. SAME, through providing education and training, credentialing support, mentoring and networking can help men and women in uniform become successful after they leave service.

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RESOURCING OUR RESOURCES

Secretary White next took the stage and used the opportunity to highlight the enormous energy trends ongoing in the United States right now, and what lies ahead in the near future should legislation change concerning exporting of liquid natural gas and crude. From a direct national security perspective, cyber attacks on the electric grid and energy infrastructure is a major concern right now. The consequences of failure to deal with these issues is enormous, he said. 

Geographically, national security impacts due to shifting energy trends are a major long-term issue.

Domestically, shifting economics throughout the country may have impacts on a host of implications. As Secretary White pointed out, a decade ago, North Dakota’s oil production was about zero; today, the state is the second largest producer in the nation.

What will happen if legislation changes and the United States can suddenly export crude and/or liquid natural gas? How does that impact international relations? How may that change trade? How will that change political mindsets about future conflicts? Energy and the need for it has driven policy and strategy for so long. Shifts in who has access to resources and how those resources are disseminated may propel major changes in North America’s future.

Ultimately, much in terms of the energy trends is yet to be decided. While progress has been made in renewable energy, as Secretary White, explained, “low price wins, period.” Other energy sources including shale and horizontal drilling have created many options. As renewable energy subsidies expire, getting clean energy will mean having to pay for it.

Bullet points for A/E/C firms to consider, when gauging entering the energy business, include remembering this is a commodity business: low cost and timely delivery are paramount. Turnkey contracting is desirable. Financing for projects will likely more and more be driven by more creative means than traditional bank financing. It is likely the contractor will be asked to accept more risk.

In closing, Secretary White emphasized the idea that the United States and the A/E/C industry has a great opportunity to facilitate the nation becoming a net energy exporter and what that entails for the future. “We, more than anywhere else in the world, have the opportunity to open markets,” he said.

The potential is only constrained only by regulation—and what we haven’t thought of yet.

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