A Tribute to Rear Adm. James Robb

By Michael Bayer
Rear Adm. James A. Robb

NTSA photo

I often mention that while the impact of the work all of us do at the National Defense Industrial Association and its affiliates can live forever, the lives of the terrific people we are privileged to work with and admire are finite.

One of those lives whose work will endure has run its course. We have lost a member of our NDIA family that we all greatly admire. So, with a heavy heart I dedicate this column — and the December edition of National Defense — to honor the life and legacy of retired Navy Rear Adm. James A. Robb, the president of the National Training and Simulation Association, an NDIA affiliate.

Throughout his tenure, Jim used his outstanding leadership skills along with his managerial wisdom to preserve the health and well-being of the modeling and simulation community, including successfully stewarding the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC).

Jim embodied the consummate professional, encouraging teamwork and open communication, always giving credit where credit was due and fostering a strong sense of unity among the NTSA staff, all while keeping the focus on the customer. His personal professional legacy is the strong NTSA team and an I/ITSEC committee of over 300 volunteers.

Jim constantly thought beyond the current challenges. One keystone achievement during his presidency was the expansion of the NTSA scholarship program. In May at MODSIM World, the association awarded $10,000 scholarships to Old Dominion University for two Bachelor’s degrees, and at I/ITSEC 2023, NTSA awarded $175,000 for six Bachelor’s degrees, nine Master’s degrees and 10 Ph.D. scholarships. These awards exemplify the significant investment by NTSA and NDIA in the future of the modeling and simulation community of practice.

Another of Jim’s legacies sprung from his passionate advocacy for the application of modeling and simulation to minimize harm and improve patient safety.

Following a Modeling and Simulation Congressional Caucus Leadership Summit in February 2020, which highlighted the critical care needs in our country, he formed the NTSA Patient Safety Working Group. This group of professionals, comprised of government, healthcare and M&S professionals, remains actively engaged in educating Congress and the broader community on how modeling and simulation can minimize errors in medical treatment through training of critical procedures.

Finally, for more than 25 years, NTSA has been involved in education initiatives from elementary school to secondary school. Through Jim’s leadership, NTSA expanded its commitment to growing the modeling and simulation technology workforce.

He established priorities to serve and attract underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by actively increasing their participation in student tours at I/ITSEC, the Student Program Challenge and other educational activities throughout the year. These programs help teachers integrate hands-on strategies to support children and youth learning complex STEM concepts to inspire the next-generation workforce of the simulation and training community.

For those and many other reasons, Jim was honored at I/ITSEC 2023 with a NTSA Lifetime of Service Award. We will miss Jim, but his spirit and dedication will live on in the ongoing work of the strong NTSA professional team and cadre of volunteers he so masterfully built and mentored. Please keep them and Jim’s family in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

Small Business Innovation Summit
This has been an exceptionally busy year at NDIA. I feel a sense of urgency regarding what more needs to be done, but I am proud of the work our member companies, volunteers and staff have accomplished this year.

And as we look to 2024, NDIA is laser-focused on increasing the resilience of the U.S. defense industrial base as a critical component of national leadership and deterrence.

Revisionist state powers, including Russia, Iran and the People’s Republic of China, are targeting Ukraine, Israel and other democracies, including Taiwan, and we must ensure that the U.S. military, as an instrument of national power, is always lethal and responsive, and the industrial base is a credible component of deterrence.

This is one of the reasons NDIA values small business member companies so much. They represent the resilience of U.S. entrepreneurship while also serving as critical drivers of innovation for warfighters. The last few months of budget instability and political uncertainty have impacted all our companies, but it disproportionately impacts small businesses.

Therefore, as we close out 2023, the association remains focused on finding ways to connect small businesses with the government. I ask you to join us for the NDIA Small Business Innovation Summit, which will be held Dec. 5-7 in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Leadership from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Offices, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the Defense Innovation Unit, the National Security Innovation Network and the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes — as well as thought leadership from across academia and industry — will be discussing best practices on effective engagement in the defense ecosystem.

This forum convenes government, industry and academic stakeholders with the purpose of promoting the development of emerging technologies and moving them rapidly into operational use.

The Small Business Innovation Summit is aligned with NDIA’s commitment to expanding the participation of small business innovators. ND

Michael Bayer is board chair at NDIA and president and CEO of Dumbarton Strategies.

Topics: Training and Simulation

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