American Society of Naval Engineers
Annual Business Meeting held on 08 July 2020
“State of the Society”
Delivered by ASNE President, Mark Hugel (RADM, USN Ret.)
Fellow ASNE Members,
I am pleased to report to you on the “state” of our Society and our ambitions for the coming year.
Let me begin by celebrating our history. As the 7th oldest, continuously operating, chartered technical society in the United States, ASNE serves to not only set the standard for naval engineering in the 21st century, but has done so now for 132 years. Each of us can recall teachers and mentors who guided our development with their coaching via the “school of hard knocks”, saving us from repeating mistakes of the past. Our mentors depended on their mentors and so on back to the very origins of the Society. And each of us is called to live into the responsibility we have to continue the legacy of teaching, mentoring and coaching the next generation of naval engineering professionals – allowing them to stand on our shoulders to see into the future and protect, preserve and improve our support to the nation’s seagoing services.
Reflecting on this past year and describing this as a turbulent time is understating everything that has been happening around us. Last July we were in the middle of moving our headquarters from Duke Street to our new Powhatan Street location. During the transition, our headquarters staff “hot-racked” with the Association of the United States Navy – a blessing that enabled our headquarters team to work closely together during the renovation period at the new headquarters. I want to extend our thanks to RADM Chris Cole, USN (ret) and the Association of the United States Navy for so kindly accommodating our headquarters team during the transition. Despite the challenges of working in temporary quarters, the ASNE staff never skipped a beat. Executive Director CAPT Dale “Kid” Lumme, USN (ret) and the staff continued their exceptional support to the Society’s operations throughout the transition. Symposia support, sponsorship coordination, professional development management, NEJ publishing, section support, financial management – the list goes on and on of the many things our small but committed headquarters team constantly juggled without a slip-up. And through it all, the Powhatan Street facility overhaul was completed timely and under budget – kudos especially to our Executive Director, who invested many personal hours bringing the overhaul and move-in across the finish line with some very clever solutions to issues that arose along the way. No one was happier than he when the staff was settled in our new headquarters.
As most of you know, the decision to sell and relocate the ASNE staff into a facility more conducive to efficient collaboration – the Duke Street facility was more space than we required and spread across three floors. The Powhatan Street HQ is the right size and arrangement to allow for more efficiently getting the day-to-day business of the headquarters done. The other primary reason for the relocation was to aid our financial health – the National Council felt it important to continue ownership of our headquarters, so selling our Duke Street headquarters and purchasing Powhatan Street preserved ownership, concurrently adding liquid assets to our finances and reduced facility operating costs as well. All in all, a win-win now that it’s in our rearview mirror.
The financial health of the Society began the year on an improving trend and that trend continued right up until the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt. In March 2020, the nation began responding in earnest to the spread of this insidious disease, and suddenly, the full schedule of ASNE-hosted symposia was postponed as localities issued “stay-at-home” orders and the venues we planned to use for our symposia started notifying us they were closed until further notice. The immediate impacts were to the Advanced Machinery Technology Symposium, Megarust 2020 and our Technology, Systems and Ships Symposium, which were all in the home stretch of planning and all expecting to contribute revenue to the ASNE coffers. The planning committees and ASNE staff jumped into action – sponsors and exhibitors were contacted and encouraged to be patient as we looked to reschedule these events. Their personal contact succeeded – for the most part, sponsors and participants have hung in there with us and the events are currently slated to be held later this year. As a first, all three will be conducted virtually and we will learn from those experiences and plow lessons learned back into planning and execution of each new virtual event.
Without the revenue from these symposia in the spring, our improving financial trend has stalled. Kudos to our Executive Director and staff for anticipating the financial pressure we were about to experience and proactively processing our request for relief from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – their efforts yielded a forgivable loan made available to us during the very first COVID stimulus aid, which has allowed us to cover ASNE staff paychecks during the spring when planned in-person events were postponed. The success of the virtual symposia coupled with the resumption of in-person events will be keys to getting back on financial track. The upcoming symposia schedule is a busy one, and, at this point, it appears we may resume in-person events with FMMS 2020 in Virginia Beach this September. The busy symposia schedule continues through the autumn, winter and spring and next year’s symposia calendar will wrap up with FMMS 2021 in San Diego at the end of June. With two FMMS events in 2021, and many other events in between, the opportunity to finally get on solid financial footing is just ahead of us, but the remaining uncertainty of a possible COVID- 19 “second wave” still poses a risk that we will monitor closely.
While there is uncertainty all around, the business of the Society moves on and fortunately, our national level committees continue to march to a steady beat. Our Ways and Means, Professional Development, Awards, Scholarships, Journal and Audit committees continue their excellent execution of important responsibilities. And our Membership committee is being thrust into the spotlight with the focus we are placing on growing Society membership. Each member of these committees is a volunteer and we all owe them a debt of thanks for their willingness to fulfill the important roles they play to keep Society business on track.
I want to give a special shout-out to our Sections Committee led by CAPT Dave Herbein, USN (ret). Back in 2018, this committee brought forward changes to our by-laws which made our Section Chairpersons voting members of our national council. As RADM(ret) Tony Lengerich noted at the time, this change in the composition of our national council made a profound and positive impact on national leadership. The answer to the question “what are the benefits of joining ASNE?” is visible in the activities of our local Sections. Many of our members ONLY participate in in-person events locally, so the opportunities to network, share professional ideas and engage one another starts (and sometimes ends) at the Section level. The work of the Sections Committee and the presence of Section Chairpersons at National Council are ensuring that the voices of our local Society constituents are being heard and their good ideas are being injected into the national ASNE discussions and planning.
Another benefit of membership is our Naval Engineer’s Journal and I’m pleased to say the Editorial Board, led by Dr. Leigh McCue-Well continues to assure the quality of content in the NEJ is top notch. The Journal provides a forum to share technical papers, naval engineering history, industry innovations and challenges our maritime services need our collective help to solve. It is also a forum to share ideas from our diverse community – and the upcoming NEJ issue will not disappoint in that vein. The staff has completed more than two dozen interviews with female naval engineers and their stories will fill the next NEJ – it will be a “don’t miss it” issue.
Finally, I want to address membership – my number one focus for the Society. Currently, we have about 2,200 members but we know there are many more potential members who have attended our events. You have seen them – instead of wearing the red “ASNE Member” badges at our events, their badges are yellow. The question I’d like each of you to ask yourselves, particularly as we look to resume in-person events – “what would it take to convert that yellow badge to a red badge?” I have found at many ASNE events I’ve attended over the years, that often it’s a matter of inviting – “would you like to join me as a member of ASNE?” It’s really easy at an event – the staff is always ready to assist. It’s not particularly expensive – if you attend more than one ASNE event in a year, the difference in event registration for members pays for the membership dues. The key, I believe, is at the local level – getting the word out about local events as we resume and personally inviting nonmembers to join us at those events will help us see memberships grow.
But we won’t stop there. We are looking at locations where ASNE sections once thrived and aiming to resurrect members is those localities to join up with each other. The first of those section resurrections is in the Pacific Northwest – CAPT(ret) Will Carroll has stepped up to lead the effort, and with the help of ASNE Vice President Greg Sanford and Sections Chair Dave Herbein, we have assembled a critical mass of local interest. Additionally, CAPT Dianna Wolfson, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Commander and senior Navy Engineering Duty Officer in the area has committed to support and advocate for local naval engineers to participate. We have other locations in mind for this type of approach, so if you live in an area that once had an active section that has gone dormant, and you’re interested in seeing ASNE recreate a local presence, please contact me and we will gather the strength of ASNE to get behind the effort.
As I wrap up my first year as your national president, I can say it’s been an interesting year for us all, and ASNE is no exception. Despite the challenges this pandemic has created, we are weathering the storm because of the awesome members we have, and the awesome staff who keep us organized and pulling together in the same direction. ASNE is successful because the national leadership, local leadership and so many members who volunteer their time work together so well. I thank you all and look forward to the coming year – it should be a very busy one for ASNE.
Submitted with respect to the ASNE membership,
Mark Hugel, RADM, USN (retired)