President's Message

President Robb's Message to NTSA and I/ITSEC Constituents


James Robb

President RADM James Robb, USN (Ret) Reflects on I/ITSEC 2021
Reprinted from the I/ITSEC Show Daily

As I/ITSEC 2021 attendees continued to fill the conference rooms and exhibit hall, Rear Admiral James A. Robb, USN (Ret.), President, National Training and Simulation Association, took a first look back at this year’s event, offering his thoughts about 2021 and his perspective toward the future.

We termed this year a ‘recovery show,’ based on the fact that we did a virtual show last year,” he began. “Our expectation was about an 80 percent solution compared to our last live show in 2019. That was our planning factor.”

Robb said that complicating factors on total attendance began with the fact that I/ITSEC decided not to bring in approximately 800 students who have attended in past years.

“Much of the student decision was COVID related,” he said. “We just didn’t want to bring that entire group of students into this atmosphere.”

He added, “We also took many of the STEM activities virtual this year, because that was a pretty successful part of last year’s virtual show. In the process, we also believe that we were reaching more teachers and more students through the virtual/online approach. There is certainly a STEM group with expanded STEM activities here at I/ITSEC, but hopefully there is more STEM going on in sort of a virtual, parallel way. We’re experimenting with that this year, and we’re going to see what happens.”

Robb acknowledged reduction in the number of international attendees present, noting that the traditional quantity of “around 1800” has dropped to approximately 1300.

“That is also to be expected,” he said. “But the last time I looked, we still have representation from 48 countries here on site. So that’s pretty dramatic. They didn’t all get a booth. That’s a business decision, and I understand that. But all in all, the core group that comes to the conference is here with full business as usual on the conference side.”

In terms of “big pluses” this year, Robb immediately highlighted expanded participation by the government.

“You saw the Navy and the Marine Corps at an extraordinarily high level with a large number of people attending and spending time here,” he asserted. “And, of course, we had the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations. That’s a hallmark event for us. It’s never happened before. And it surprised me in a time of COVID. That could have been a reason not to come. But the fact is that they both came here, enjoyed their experience here and went away inspired by the size of it. And they tended to say things like, ‘I didn’t know about this but now that I see it, it’s really impressive – and we need to do more about this.’

“I was also excited to hear them say that training and readiness are number one on their list and that they are looking at ways to compete training and readiness with what we call ‘the shiny objects,’ or the new programs out there that tend to get a lot of spotlight. So we had a great time advocating training and readiness with them.”

Another highlight identified by Robb was significant number of high-level panels and special events that took place throughout the week in a packed schedule that he credited to “the draw and the richness of the individuals within the planning committee.”

“Our planning team and the execution team are about 300 people who are all volunteers and have done a magnificent job,” he continued. “Many of them are new, but I haven’t seen any balls hit the ground yet in terms of execution.”

Looking ahead, Robb pointed to “some new dynamics” on the show floor, with the presence of what he described as “non-traditional companies” like Unity Gaming, NVIDIA and Microsoft.

“Those companies are normally in the background. They are enabling. And the fact that they have seen value to come here and participate on the show floor means a couple of things. First, they see a market here. Second, the government has demonstrated that they value what they have to offer. And what they have to offer is fairly leading edge. And that’s great, since we want to try to motivate and influence the government to move out and take on these new capabilities.”

He noted that planning has already begun for I/ITSEC 2022, with hopes that the Air Force and possibly Space Force will participate at the same level as the sea services demonstrated this year.

Robb said that NTSA looks forward to the feedback from this year’s attendees and urged exhibitors to consider getting their booths early.

“This week’s sales for next year are extremely strong,” he said. “We sold out this show floor in 2019, and I bet we do it again in ’22.”

He concluded, “Debbie Langelier and the extended staff have just done a magnificent job, and I can’t thank them enough.”