VA Secretary, Key Lawmakers to Address Guard Officers in Hawaii

HONOLULU (Sept. 17, 2013) ― The secretary of veterans affairs and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee top the list of guest speakers when National Guard officers from across the country gather at the Hawaii Convention Center here this weekend for the 135th NGAUS General Conference & Exhibition.   

VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is set to speak at 3:35 p.m. Saturday and Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the HASC chairman, is scheduled to address the conference at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

“I’m honored and delighted to join the National Guard Association of the United States at their 2013 conference,” McKeon said. “In the past decade, the National Guard has been called to serve above and beyond reasonable expectations of duty. Time and time again, they have answered. I am humbled by their invitation to speak. But I am also eager to visit them and listen.”

Other notable speakers include Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (12:15 p.m. Saturday); Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, (9 a.m. Sunday); Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (4:05 p.m. Saturday); and Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commanding general of U.S. Army, Pacific (11:15 a.m. Sunday).

The conference is the association’s annual business meeting. Guard officers from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia will discuss the issues that confront their force, such as looming budget cuts, and set their legislative agenda.

This is the fifth time since 1960 that NGAUS has held its conference in Hawaii. Local officials say the nearly 3,000 attendees—the vast majority of whom paid their own way—are expected to generate several million dollars in local economic impact.

Events get underway at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the conference’s industry exhibition. Approximately 250 companies, including a who's who of the nation's leading defense and homeland-security contractors, have purchased booths.

Abercrombie, the commander in chief of the Hawaii National Guard, is also scheduled to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He is the 2009 recipient of the NGAUS Harry S. Truman Award, the association’s highest honor. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time.

Reporters, Editors & Producers: Conference business sessions, ceremonies and the industry exhibition are open to the press. NGAUS and the Hawaii National Guard will establish a conference press office at the Hawaii Convention Center later this week. Media credentialing will be handled on site. A subsequent release will provide a phone number at the center and additional details.  

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 135 years later, NGAUS has the same mission. It is the nation’s oldest veterans- or military-service organization.