Our Communicator theme for the last several issues has been leading us in a direction of “where have we been”, “where are we now”, and “where are we going” state of affairs. As I look at the Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA) today, it gives me great pride to see how far the organization has come since its beginning. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect back and look at the “where we came from” perspective and who the key players were when CDCA took roots.
It was back around the turn of the century, when Y2K was a big threat to our way of life. As it turned out, Y2K just fizzled out, but something else was on the horizon that could have a serious negative impact on the future of the Charleston Defense community. There was another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC 2005) initiative in process, and based on the closing of the Charleston Naval Shipyard on the previous BRAC (1993), the Charleston community was mobilizing to avert another serious closure for the area. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce had formed a Defense Issues Task Force consisting of 40 businesses and government officials headed up by retired Brigadier General Thomas R. Miikolajcik (USAF). They were collecting and tracking base closing issues and raising awareness within the greater Charleston Defense community.

As many of our Defense companies were also members of the Metro Chamber, it wasn’t long before the BRAC issue was brought up at one of the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association (AFCEA) meetings, where the members decided to form the “Technology Leadership Forum”, a grassroots organization to organize the Defense contractors. Its purpose was to ensure the Defense community had a voice and was able to make a contribution in the defense of our business base against another BRAC.
The first meeting I attended was on September 6, 2001, hosted by CSSI and Jim Hoffman. Others in attendance that day included: Robert Rish (GeoLogics), John Mooney (Capstone), Carl Lundquist (AMSEC), Sterling Boyd (Northrop Grumman IT), Bill Nold (Logicon), Mike Resler (EMA), Charlie Templeton (WareOnEarth), Michael Brown (MAB), and Tim Washington (SRC). As a result of that meeting, Mike Resler was selected to represent us on the Defense Issue Task Force with the Chamber and Tim Washington was voted as the Chairperson for the Technology Leadership Forum.

Other key players who were active in the Technology Leadership Forum meetings included: Mark Keeler (BAE), Jack Eargle (SRC), Tom Kaupus (DCS), Deborah Bacon (EMA), Wally Gunter (EMA), George Topping (MILCOM), Kevin Holcomb (DCS), Steve Dunlap (AMSEC), Steve Amell (LCE), Gary Durante (SRC), Richard Johnston (SRC), Greg James (Dataline), Rick Jenderny (ARINC), Jerry Haggerty (Northrop Grumman IT), JD Rosser (Logicon), and Correna Panagiotou (SAIC).
The Technology Leadership Forum met monthly from September 2001 through August 2002 and discussed a myriad of issues, all relating to the defense of the upcoming BRAC. Special guests were invited to attend the meetings representing SPAWAR, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Defense Issue Task Force, Charleston Business Journal, Senator Holling’s Office, and the Lowcountry Graduate Center to discuss ideas and offer assistance where needed.

As interest and involvement grew and a clear mission was developed, it was evident with the forum members that the AFCEA organization was not the ideal organizational structure to press forward with our agenda. The forward-thinking members who were instrumental in forming this grassroots organization initially decided upon establishing a totally separate organization that would lend itself to the ability for the Defense industry to be represented in all aspects of a traditional non-profit, tax-exempt business league to address any and all issues affecting the Charleston Defense business community. The first general meeting of the organization was held on November 7, 2002 and we called ourselves the Charleston Defense Contractors Association. The first Board of Directors election was held at this meeting, which took place at the Titan facility in the Aviation Business Park.

    Board officers elected were:
  • Jim Hoffman/President (EMA)
  • Ron Bushey/Vice President (Titan)
  • Mike Resler/Treasurer (EMA)
  • Kelly Carignan/Secretary (ICF Consulting)
  • Michael Brown/Member (MAB)
  • Fred McCarthy/Member (Raytheon)
  • Charlie Templeton/Member (WareOnEarth)
  • Carl Lundquist/Member (AMSEC)
  • Kevin Holcomb/Member (DCS)
  • James Mooney/Member (CAPSTONE)
  • Tim Washington/Member (SRC)

On December 4, 2002, the State of South Carolina formally recognized CDCA as a corporation, and we held our first interim Board of Directors meeting on December 5, 2002. On April 11, 2003, the CDCA received its 501(c)(6) status from the IRS. At CDCA's first official business meeting on December 5, the organization was established with the filing of the Articles of Incorporation and EIN and the finalizing of the Corporate By-Laws. Budgets and memberships were discussed and executive committees were established for the day-to-day activities of the organization. Committees established included: Executive, Membership, Fundraising, BRAC, and Communications/Publicity. Once the BRAC decision was made, the BRAC committee was dissolved. Today, the number of committees has expanded, as well as the role and responsibilities of the organization.

From a grassroots organization to the present CDCA Corporation, we have come a long way. CDCA is a strong, well-positioned, and prominent presence within the Charleston Defense community and recognized throughout the Defense industry as a key player and the “One Voice” recognized by our government sponsors in our region. It’s only speculation, but where will CDCA be in 2020? My guess, still leading the charge!

by Ron Bushey