August 8, 2017: At a time when global tensions are high and we hear of the dangers which can rain down from above, how timely to hear as we did this week of Charleston’s role in defending the nation from this menace from Josh Hatter, the President of the Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA). Hatter’s day job is Senior Business Development Manager for General Dynamics Information Technologies in Charleston where his focus is SPAWAR – the technology arm for the United States Navy and a vital component of our nation’s defense, but his message this week was of the important work of the CDCA in support of our local defense industry connections.
In introducing us to the CDCA, Hatter reminded us of a little local history which led the creation of the CDCA. NISE East, the Navy’s consolidation of several east-coast naval engineering commands was headquartered in Charleston in 1995, what Hatter described as a consolation prize after the closing of the Charleston Navy Base as a result of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). Formed in 2002, the CDCA was instrumental in assuring that BRAC recommendations in that year did not result in any losses for the Charleston community.
The mission of the CDCA is to advocate for, preserve, strengthen and grow the defense industry in the Charleston area. It has four membership categories – affiliate, small business, corporate and platinum. There is a great deal of talk of the impact of tourism in our community, but Hatter pointed out that the defense industry has just as big an impact bringing as it does over 15,000 jobs to the state. In pursuit of its mission the CDCA sponsors various local initiatives including: quarterly luncheons which offer local defense industry players an opportunity to network, its Small Business and Industry Outreach Initiative (SBIOI) which drew 1,500 attendees at its last meeting at Trident Tech and its Annual Defense Summit. The next SBIOI is scheduled for September 7 and Hatter invited us to attend the same, but he is particularly excited about this year’s defense summit scheduled for December 5-8 at the North Charleston Convention Center. The keynote speaker will be Peter Singer, who at 29 years of age became the youngest person to become a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. He is an expert on 21st century warfare and his novel, Ghost Fleet, tells the story of the next world war, perhaps a story a little too prescient considering today’s headlines, but a story which showcases the very real contributions of Charleston’s defense technology players to our nation’s defense.
The nature of technology being what it is, those who practice it, and as a result SPAWAR and our local defense industry members, of necessity must look forward to the future and the CDCA is doing just this. For ten years it has sponsored an internship program for the local defense industry. This year’s summer internship has just come to an end. The CDCA also sponsors an annual competition for innovative apps open to high school and college students. To further these and all its efforts, Hatter noted that the CDCA partners with several other organizations including the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance and Women in Defense, Palmetto Chapter.
The CDCA is intent on strengthening SPAWAR and has developed a strategic plan to ensure this occurs. Focused on ten goals to guide the CDCA through 2020, the strategic plan has four goals for the CDCA which Hatter highlighted in his presentation: 1) to be the central, trusted voice of the industry to federal, state and local governments, 2) to make the CDCA Annual Defense Summit the premier such event in the country, 3) to elevate the awareness within our community of the local defense industry and 4) to expand local post-graduate education opportunities. This last goal of expansion of education options for our community is one familiar to us, as it has been a theme expressed by many speakers to our club in the past as we seek to sustain the manufacturing and general economic growth our region has experienced of late. To that end Hattoer says the CDCA has been polling local defense industry players to determine what post-graduate degrees are most needed for the future and has sought to determine what higher education institutions offer those degrees in the southeastern United States.
The CDCA is clearly a vital driver of the continued economic growth of our community and Hatter is glad to accept our help in furthering its causes. Through membership, sponsorship or simply attendance at its events, we can support this effort and to help Hatter directed us to the CDCA website: www.charlestondca.org.
— Alex Dallis, Keyway Committee