Bob, Eric, Pat and Paul (left to right) pose with Einstein’s statue outside the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington D.C.

Bob, Eric, Pat and Paul (left to right) pose with Einstein’s statue outside the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington D.C.

Pat Gouhin (ISA CEO and Executive Director), Robert Lindeman (AAES Board member and former ISA Society President), along with Eric Cosman and Paul Gruhn (two ISA Society Leaders), attended a number of meetings in Washington D.C. in late April. Representation from the ISA presidential chain has traditionally participated in these annual meetings, but being occupied elsewhere this year, we pushed our technical expertise to the forefront by having subject matter expertise present from our standards committees. Eric allowed us to showcase our ICS cybersecurity preeminence with Paul providing the same luxury as it relates to functional safety.

The first day was a joint AAES (American Association of Engineering Societies) meeting. AAES is a US federation of 17 engineering and engineering-related societies, of which ISA is one. The purpose of the organization is to collectively achieve what the individual societies cannot do alone. (This is obviously reminiscent of why ISA itself was formed in 1945 from a collection of more than a dozen local instrument societies.) These particular meetings focused on artificial intelligence and ethics associated with autonomous vehicles, and were held at the National Academy of Sciences Building. There were presentations from Boeing, Caterpillar, IEEE and various universities. There was a heavy focus on automation and control in all the presentations, including the Internet of things, Industry 4.0 and cybersecurity. ISA’s Dennis Coad was instrumental in securing Dr. Kevin Wise from Boeing as one of the panelists. As the International Society of Automation, we have incredible potential to influence and be involved with so much more than what we currently are!

The second morning all four ISA leaders attended the Engineering Public Policy Symposium that is annually put on by the United Engineering Foundation (UEF), held at the Rayburn House Office Building, next to the Capitol Building. At this meeting the Presidents, Presidents-Elect and Executive Directors from 44 national engineering societies, representing more than 2 million engineers, heard presentations on public policy. We heard of the alarming proposed R&D spending cuts in the FY 17 & 18 budgets, divergent viewpoints on federal investments to spur science and innovation, and research and technology within federal agencies. We heard from various agency members, members of Congress, Congressional Staff, and public policy advisors. Trump’s proposed initial ‘skinny’ budget actually has many similarities with Reagan’s. Defense spending is up, everything else is down. There are plans to potentially eliminate significant programs that come out of organizations such as the DOE (Department of Energy), CSB (Chemical Safety Board), NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), and dramatically cut the budgets of others. NIST and many other federal agencies are involved in basic and applied research. Some believe that industry cannot afford to fund all the basic research we as a country need to be great again, and that without it, our country will never ‘recover’ and risks being surpassed by China or India as the world leader in innovation. Many of the speakers were in opposition to the proposed budget, especially one Congressman who’s also an engineer which is pretty rare in the United States Congress today. However, the President can propose whatever he wants, it’s still up to Congress to decide what will actually happen. Trump’s full budget will be released within the next few weeks. Then Congress gets to debate it and make their decisions.

The second afternoon was an AAES board meeting. Bob Lindeman serves on the AAES board of seven people. Not all 17 AAES organizations are represented on the board, and none of the board members specifically represent their sponsoring organization; they represent the association as a whole. Organizations don’t participate merely to see what they can get out of the organization. Much like being a volunteer leader within ISA, organizations also participate out of obligation for the greater good of the entire group, and in doing so, all will benefit. Based on the results of a survey open to all 17 organizations, AAES will focus on Diversity and Inclusion, Educating the public about engineering, and impacting pubic policy as each relate to AAES’ vision of advancing the engineering profession’s impact on the public good and mission to serve as one voice for the U.S. engineering profession.

We all can appreciate that no one person nor any one entity has a lock on all of the good ideas and knowledge that is out there. The week proved this point as several knew connections were made, opportunities identified and new resources uncovered. All of this is less likely to occur without collaboration than it is when the right people come together in pursuit of a common vision. As evidenced this week, ISA is a respected contributor to the conversation and influencer of the overall direction of the larger engineering profession.

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