This year’s MACC was the fourth (or maybe it was the fifth?) I’ve attended since my first in 2006. Each was unique and offered a special blend of military ambience, a small but busy trade show, technical — often too technical — conference sessions and some wild-ass, in-water demos. Past MACCs have also had a fun social side with an annual $2-beer beach party.
This year, no beach party, and not so many men and women in uniform at the show or around the base. One exhibitor told me that he didn’t see a single person from the Coast Guard. At previous MACCs, there were also more people from other agencies like Customs and Border Protection as well as from various municipal fire and police departments.
Exhibitors and in-water demonstrators were also down from past events. During the boom years, Safe Boats would have several boats in the water. This year, they had none. Metal Shark was well represented, however, with five.
Part of the problem may have been the sequester and tight government budgets. Because the show dates were confirmed fairly late, some government and military may not have had time to get travel authorization, or so went the theory.
Security at the Little Creek naval base was also an issue. Mainly, it was inconsistent. On the first day we had to show ID and get checked off a list before getting into the base, where we picked up show badges. The next day at the gate, we showed our IDs and badges and got waved right through. The third day, inbound traffic was stalled for about an hour at the gate as all IDs were individually scrutinized inside the guardhouse. Inside the base, no one was allowed to take pictures, unless you were with the media, of which I seemed to be the only one.
This year’s MACC was organized by the American Society of Naval Engineers, which did a competent job, especially given the constraints imposed by the Navy. ASNE’s experience jumping through federal hoops should continue to prove valuable for future shows.
MACC is still an important opportunity for military-commercial collaboration. As one colonel put it, “MACC is part of the process now. This is one team, one fight, we’re all in this together.”
— B. Buls