Defense contractors showed off new armored trucks, battlefield laptops and laser-guided bombs on opening day of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington.
Their uniformed customers were a bit outgunned.
The Army slashed spending on the event to $1.3 million from $10.6 million last year following the backlash over the General Services Administration’s lavish spending at a bash near Las Vegas.
As a result, the number of attendees traveling at the Army’s expense to the three-day event was cut to 400 from 2,576 last year. Total attendance at the conference, billed as the largest defense-related forum in the country, was estimated at about 30,000, down from more than 35,000 last year, organizers said.
The reduction was noticeable in the exhibit hall, where the Army consolidated its presence into a single area rather than maintain dozens of separate booths.
The number of government-sponsored exhibits fell to 17 this year from 96 last year, while the number of industry exhibits rose to 654 from 612 during the same period, according to association spokesman David Liddle.
“The sky is not falling by any stretch,” Liddle said in an interview.
BAE Systems Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of London-based BAE Systems Plc, had a slightly smaller exhibit this year compared with last year, though plenty of room to display its tracked combat vehicles. Company spokesman Mark Jackson said a few people have commented on the fewer military personnel in attendance.
“But you never know, it might pick up,” he said in an interview.