AUSA Winter Symposium a slow show in 2013
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL. It looks like the AUSA Winter Symposium's last visit to Fort Lauderdale is going out with a whimper rather than a roar. Like many other military trade shows in the U.S. this annual gathering near the Florida beaches saw a serious decline in business as the Department of Defense cuts back on travel in anticipation of sequestration and other budget cuts.
Show management said this year the outside exhibits — those typically featuring Army land vehicles and helicopters — were eliminated due to the decrease in business. While the event only attracted 1,400 attendees this year, show management said they were pleased and said the event will happen again next year — just not in Fort Lauderdale. A 2014 location has not yet been selected, but AUSA officials say they are looking Raleigh, NC — to be near Ft. Bragg — or Huntsville, AL. After 2014 they would most likely start a rotation including those two locations and one or two more.
During my previous trips to this event I found it to be buzzing with new Army technology with large footprints from prime contractors such as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. For a peak at the General Dynamics booth see the attached photo. You really can’t blame the primes for not going since their customer — the Army — only committed to the show a couple weeks out. Those who did attend apparently were flag officers and staff, not many from the program management level.
Unfortunately this may be the norm for military trade shows for the next couple of years — especially if sequestration comes to pass. The only U.S. events that still seem to create a “have to be there” buzz are SOFIC and AUVSI — Special Forces and Unmanned Systems events respectively. This makes sense as both those applications will get the bulk of whatever funding is left after budget cuts. I hear second hand that international military events such as the recent IDEX show in Abu Dahbi, UAE are thriving. Rumor has it IDEX was a few times larger than even AUSA’s Annual Meeting held yearly in October in Washington. I hope U.S. military trade shows don’t lag behind for too long.