Report on March Meeting of Pentagon Advisory Committee

VIETNAM WAR 50TH COMMEMORATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE
REPORT OF MARCH 7, 2017 MEETING IN ARLINGTON, VA

                  The meeting began at 1:30 pm and concluded at 3:05 pm, was chaired by Tom Ridge and attended by 8 other committee members and numerous staff.  This was the 7th meeting of the Advisory Committee and my 5th and it was held at the office for the project.  The meeting room was smaller and felt crowded.  Prior to the meeting I was met by Marcia Moore, Designated Federal Officer.  She had documents for me and escorted me to the meeting room.  She made sure I had a seat from which I could watch the screen.  After Ridge opened the meeting, she was the first person to speak.  I was the only public person there she explained and she had me stand, introduce myself.  Several people said welcome and Ridge said “glad you are here.”   My name and VPCC was on the printed agenda seen by all.  Moore finished her report and the meeting was devoted to only one agenda item:  Introduction for the Conceptual Plan for Vietnam War 50th Commemoration’s 2018-2025 Activities.

                  The powerpoint presentation was given by Larry Brom, Assistant Director of Plans and Operations.  The first thing he said was, “I think you have a copy of the plan, Mr Provance.  Is that correct?”  To which I said “yes.”  So, curiously, there was more recognition of our attendance at this meeting unlike any other one previously. 

                  Here I will summarize the discussion that followed.  Originally their Execution Phase was 2014-2017 (3 years).  They had a lot of activity in the last two years and so they are extending the Execution Phase one more year until 2018 in order to maximize their outreach and which is then followed by their Sustainment Phase from 2018-2025.  Their main goal is still to reach out to all military personnel during the Vietnam War era and are doing that through media/communications and local events.  They now have 10,625 Commemorative Partners which have held 8,288 local events between 2011-2017.  They have conducted 323 Oral History Interviews as of March 1, 2017.  Basically from 2018 to 2023 they are encouraging more local activities and for some states are promoting state wide coordinated events or a state level event.  Several members and I were surprised to learn that 28 states currently celebrat March 29 as Vietnam War Memorial Day.  And some history of this was mentioned but no one was really clear how this got started other than to hear that Congress knew it did not have the support for a national memorial day.  So events are encouraged on this date and efforts will be made to get more states to adopt a resolution to celebrate it.  Question here:  Does this provide to us some organizing options?  This may also be the date in 2023 when they will organize a national event in DC at the Vietnam War Wall Memorial.  Then they will organize one more national event during Memorial Day weekend and national event in 2025, their last project and the year the project will dissolve.  For both of these, 2023 and 2025, they will try to get national figures, representatives from the 5 Allied Countries, perhaps even the President.  They will try to work and influence the contract of the organization which will be responsible for the Memorial Day event in 2025, not create their own, get between 15-30 minutes at it and get introduced Congressional resolution that will support the event.  After that, the project will issue its report by Sept 30, 2025 as stipulated in the legislation guiding their work but will leave open possibilities for people to comment on their website on the May 2025 event and particularly veterans.
                  The meeting then began to talk about how to sustain Commemorative Partners and activities from 2018-2023 and then to 2025.  Members spoke of new partners, new ideas, measuring impact and looking for new opportunities.  It was pointed out that Nov 18, 2022 is the 40th anniversary of the Wall and appropriate for local events as well.  They reported that each local event is averaging about 129 veterans who are honored.  They recognize that leadership of local partners will change between now and 2025, even staff and committee members might change as well and so there is a constant need for doing education work for even new people and partners.
                  They did refer to the documents that they create as educational materials.  In fact, one of their members is speaking next week in Texas to an organization of retired teachers.  This led Mark Franklin to repeat what he always does and that is “we are not offering lesson plans.”  What they did say yesterday was that “we have resources for the topics and themes that come up.”  Still feels like educational plans, strategies to me as I have said before despite their official pushback that they are not. 
                  Ridge did offer that he would expect funds to reduce over the last 8 years as well to which the new director spelled out some budget details (no figures) and agreed that there would be a diminution.
                  If members are invited to speak, they are encouraged to get in touch with the project office for resources and materials.  The next meeting will be in September 2017 and Ridge explained that it will be the occasion to discuss in detail the proposed activities that were presented today.
                  I was able to get a notebook of the formal meeting previous to the public one which includes some fotos from the new website which will be released in the summer 2017.  I am also looking through this booklet from the official meeting prior to the public one to see if there are other pieces that are important.  There is nothing in it about the history and timeline which may have been discussed along with website report but not mentioned in the written materials.

Terry Provance

March 8, 2017

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