History of the

Industrial Representatives Association (IRA)


The Industrial Representatives Association (IRA) is a professional association that was envisioned and established in Eatontown New Jersey in 1965.  As such, it has a considerable history of its own.  However, considering the inextricable relationship of the Industrial Representatives Association (IRA) and the history of the United States Army communications and electronics and the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth (Camp Little Silver) New Jersey it is only appropriate to begin this historical review with a quick review of the US Army at Fort Monmouth. 


Fort Monmouth:

The Army recognized at the outbreak of World War I that the Signal Corps . . . was incapable of providing the communications support the Army would need, should the United States enter the war.  In October 1916 the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (OC­SigO) asked the executives of   American Telephone and Telegraph, Western Electric, Western Union, and the Postal Telegraph Company to recruit from among their trained employees, personnel for a Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps.  The response was more than could have been hoped for . . . The Signal Corps needed places in which to prepare these citizen Soldiers for service in battle.  The history of Fort Monmouth began in 1917 when the Army established four training camps for signal troops.  One was located at Little Silver, New Jersey; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Leon Springs, Texas; and the Presidio of Monterey, California housed the others.  Government-owned land was utilized for all the camps except for Little Silver.  The installation was originally named Camp Little Silver, based merely on its location; it later was known as Camp Vail when it achieved semi-permanent status on 15 September 1917.  The mission at this location included the training of Signal Corps personnel in the arts of Map Reading, Field Wire Laying, Telegraphy, Homing Pigeon training along with serving as Radio Laboratory and Aerial Testing.             

The installation was granted permanent status on 6 August 1925 and renamed Fort Monmouth “for the brave Soldiers who gave their lives just a few miles away at the Battle of Monmouth Court House (June 28, 1778).” 


During the both the peacetime between World Wars and throughout World War II Fort                                  

Monmouth continued to serve as Signal Corps School along with the Corps’ Development laboratories for communications and Radar.  Space communications found its birth at Fort Monmouth when on 10 January 1946 the U.S. Army SIGNAL Corps made Radar Contact with the moon marking one of the fort’s many firsts and historical high points.  Conversely, Fort Monmouth was soon thereafter the object of congressional opprobrium and public notorietywhen it became caught up in McCarthyism of the time. 


Many new firsts were achieved at Fort Monmouth over the next decade and major reorganizations within the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps and acquisition organization brought prominence to Fort Monmouth.  The reorganization of the U.S. Army in 1962 resulted in some significant changes at Fort Monmouth.  The Army Materiel Command (AMC) was stood up on 1 August 1962 as the first centralized logistics command to exist in peacetime.  A subordinate element of AMC, the U.S. Army Electronics Command (USECOM, or ECOM), was established at Fort Monmouth that same day.  Fort Monmouth produced many more first in the 1960 in the areas of Satellite Communications, Mobile Digital Computer (MOBIDIC), weather radar and measurement, and night vision devices.  At this same time it also saw a growing straining of relationship between the U.S. Army and its industrial base.  As a result, a group of industry representatives that were doing business with the U.S. Army at Fort Monmouth gathered together to discuss what could be done about this detreating situation.                                                                                                                                                                  

Major General William B. Latta (Electronics Command's commander, October 1965 to September 1969), personally browbeat contractors to ensure timely delivery . . .  The command delivered 20,000 VRC-12 and 33,000 PRC-25 radios to Southeast Asia in three and a half years.  The PRC-25 was, according to Westmoreland's successor Gen. Creighton Abrams (1968 to 1972), "the single most important tactical item in Vietnam."                    

Congressional investigations conducted by Representative William H. Harsha, in this time frame, on the US Army’s bidding practices and industry’s practice of hiring of retired US Army officers further strained the Army’s tenuous relationship with its industry partners. 

The establishment of the Industrial Representatives Association (IRA):

“A meeting of some 36 local representatives was held at the Admirals Table on       1 December 1964 for the purpose of discussing the probability of organizing an association for the local representatives who regularly call on the Electronics Command.”  These were the first words ever written about the association which formally became the Industrial Representatives Association (IRA).  The association’s charter members were being driven by the government announced initiatives which were being enacted due to the acquisition reform of the time.  During this first gathering a tentative committee was formed for the purpose of drafting a by-law and/or charter for presentation to the group at their next meeting which was held on 19 January 1965. 


The second meeting was held at the Shadowbrook where the by-laws/charter were accepted by the membership and the association formally was established.  A committee was then formed for the purpose of determining a name for the organization.  The name Industrial Representatives Association (I.R.A.) was suggested by Paul Brandt on 29 January 1965.  As this name infers, the association’s membership was comprised of industry representatives whose primary focus was developing business with, and contractual sales of electronics to the U.S. Army at Fort Monmouth.


The Initiation fee was set at $1.00 for charter members and $5.00 for all new members.  A new member being one who did not participate in one of the first three Association meetings.  Annual dues were set at $1.00 per year and the first year dues were included in the initiation fee.  By 01 July 1965 there were sixty four members of the new association. 



Monthly Member Meeting format:

The association’s meeting format of having a government guest speakers was established with the 08 February 1965 meeting which saw General Moorman, the then commander of the Electronics Command as the IRA’s invited speaker to talk about changes at Fort Monmouth at the Crystal Brook Inn.  This format has been followed regularly since.  This meeting also saw the first of several times where the IRA visited the idea of becoming affiliated with a National Organization.  “The {President proposed that consideration be given to affiliation of our Association with a National Organization.  He suggested the American Marketing Associating.  It was agreed that the Executive Board would investigate the pros and cons, and submit a recommendation at a future meeting.”


On 8 June 1965, BG Feyereinsen, the then Deputy Commanding General for Plans and Programs addressed the association and describe the new US Army Electronics Command Policy Program for dealing with industry. 


A portion of the record of his presentation reads as follows: “The General then spoke as citizens of the community, on the subject of Boy Scouts, indicating the importance of supporting this important movement.  It was suggested that Industry be asked to donate to the Monmouth Boy Scouts Association. 


This is accepted to be origination of the three tenents of the IRA – Government - Industry and Community which was later symbolized by Joe Townsend in the 1980’s into the association’s logo.  


Social (BASH) format:

The First Annual Industrial Representatives Association Reception was held January 11, 1966, at the Crystal Brook Inn, Eatontown, New Jersey. 

 Due to the enthusiastic response from the Electronics Command personnel, it was impossible to get an exact count of attendance; however, it approximated five hundred gusts.  This response was due largely to the Reception having received the blessing of the Commanding General.

 The expenses of this reception was bore by IRA members.  An original assessment of $50.00 per man was made against each member.  Due to costs exceeding our estimates (because of the large turnout) an additional assessment of $30.00 per member was made subsequent to receiving a vote of approval from the membership a the February 1966 meeting.” 


While this format of a reception is very similar to the current IRA Socials, where through the application of the Wide Area Gathering (WAG) approval process the IRA has been able to encourage participation by U.S. Army and the greater acquisition community, the continued acquisition reform of that time served to end this annual event a few years later.  Twelve years later; however, due to a burgeoning association bank balance, Sam Delaney suggested a new format for the association’s socials and the “Annual Reception” evolved to an outing for members and their wives only that came to be known as the annual “BASH.”  Of course in 1978 social consciousness differed and the format BASH was a little different from the Social format followed today.  That year, the BASH was “held at the Playboy Resort and Country Club at Great Gorge.”  It was “a tremendous outing” involving “Golf, Tennis and Swimming BUNNIES!” 

 Subsequent Annual BASH(s) had been held as outings to the Monmouth Race Track, Bus Trips to Bucks County Play House and Washington’s Crossing; Dinner Cruise around New York City, Plays on Broadway, Handsome Carriage Ride tours of Society Hill Section of Philadelphia and Liberty Bell Park, Mystery Dinner Theaters, and of course Dinner Dances. 


Incorporation of the IRA: 

The Industrial Representatives Association was incorporated with the State of New Jersey on 18 December 1968 as a Not-for-Profit corporation with the purpose:

  1. To assist in promoting and maintaining better relations between the Electronics Industry and the Governmental Agencies to which the industry is represented through the Association’s members.
  2. To promote a better professional relationship and understanding among the individual of the Association.



Major changes come to Fort Monmouth:

The U.S. Army’s 100-Day study as released on 1 April 1974, “concluded that the Army’s standard commodity command structure, with its emphasis on “readiness,” limited flexibility and impeded the acquisition process.”  The results of this study led to the reorganization of ECOM to CERCOM/CORADCOM and with the further August 1980 review of the Army’s electronics community, to CECOM.  With this increased focus on acquisition, the Army at Fort Monmouth began to contract out portions of the acquisition management process.  System Engineering and Technical Support (SETA) contractors became an integral part of the Fort Monmouth community.  After very energetic discussions by the IRA membership, it was decided to allow the business development representatives of these support contractors to become members of the association.  With this, the membership rolls of the association grew rapidly from dozens to over one hundred members. 


The 1980s also saw:

1)     The addition of several “tenant” organizations at Fort Monmouth and while some of these organizations were included into the IRA’s focus, others were not, with the association remaining largely focused on the U.S. Army’s Communications and Electronics acquisition. 

2)     The Regan Years build up years and the prominence and budget of Fort Monmouth continued to grow as did the numbers of contracts awarded to industry.  This served to draw in many more companies interested in doing business with the U.S. Army at Fort Monmouth and this was reflected in the significant growth in IRA membership rolls. 

3)     A push by a small subset of the association members to expand the IRA either, again, by associating with a National Organization or by establishment of additional chapters at other US Army locations like Huntsville, AL; Rock Island, IL and Picatinny, NJ.  Both of which were voted down by the membership as potentially diluting the networking value of the association.


The 1990s saw even further changes within the Fort Monmouth community.  While operations like Vint Hill Farms Station, the Information Systems Management Agency (ISMA) and the Pulse Power Center were relocated to Fort Monmouth other tenant activities like the Chaplin School were moved out.  This concentrated even further the U.S. Army acquisition of communications and electronics at Fort Monmouth coalescing into what became known as Team C4ISR and brought further growth to the association’s membership rolls. 


The continued philosophy of focusing solely on the US Army’s C5ISR Acquisition Community is what has allowed the IRA to remain the viable and vibrant association it has been over these fifty plus years. 


The End of an Era:

While the end of World War I saw the growth of the US Army Signal Corps involvement at Fort Monmouth the missions of the two US Army organizations out on Sandy Hook New Jersey began to interfere with each other.  Although the Sandy Hook Proving Ground range had become too short for most ordnance testing, it continued operations through the end of World War I.  The expansion of Fort Hancock’s war-time defenses and garrison also encroached on the Proving Ground’s firing range.  From time to time, when shells burst on the range, fragments came close to hitting soldiers at or near their gun batteries or housing areas.  After the war, the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker directed the Army to find another location.  After having been rebuffed by the inhabitants of Kent Island and Queen Ann’s County the Sandy Hook Proving Ground was closed and its personnel and equipment transferred to the US Army second choice location at Aberdeen, Maryland.  


Nearly ninety years later on 15 September 2005, President George W. Bush approved the fifth BRAC Commission's recommendations and the US Army’s Communications Electronics Acquisition operations were moved from Fort Monmouth New Jersey to Aberdeen Proving Ground Maryland. 


In preparation for the closure of Fort Monmouth in September 2011 the Industrial Representatives Association began the task of moving its operations down to the Aberdeen Maryland area and conducted its first Membership Luncheon meeting in the area on 24 Jun 2008 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen Maryland.  The IRA ExCom directed that the association should be registered with the State of Maryland as a foreign corporation and over the next three years an increasing number of luncheon meetings were conducted in Maryland.  The April 2011 IRA Luncheon Meeting at the Molly Pitcher Inn, Red Bank, NJ marked the last time an association meeting was held in New Jersey. 


The transition from New Jersey to Maryland was fairly seamless with most of its members having moved their families to the communities surrounding the APG area.  Several members, who choose to remain in New Jersey, joined a fair number of government employees who regularly commuted from New Jersey to APG.  As a result, the membership numbers in the association remained fairly consistent even growing a small amount due to the influx of new members from several companies already established in the APG area who were now looking to learn more about the US Army C4ISR Acquisition related customers newly located at APG.  With this influx of new members was once again an interest in expanding the mission of the IRA to include other US Army customer focus areas but co-incidentally located at APG.  After extensive intercourse the decision was made to continue with the historically proven focus on C4ISR only.  As with numerous similar decisions in the past, this decision left the IRA able to deliver the much valued “Networking” that our members enjoy and avoid the dilution it’s this focus and therefore avoiding evolving into conflict with numerous other professional organizations whose missions transcend the US Army’s now C5ISR community. 


One “causality” of the move to Maryland was the loss of member’s interest in supporting the Annual IRA BASH.  While moving away from the more spousal/guest format of the BASH, the “community” and “networking” values were not forgotten and the Annual BASH evolved in seasonal “Member Socials” where IRA members and members of the government community gather under the auspices of “Widely Attended Gatherings,” a mechanism that allows for government employees to participate in social events hosted by entities like the IRA. 


On the positive side the association rediscovered the “Community” foundation of the IRA triangle.  The increase of membership resulted in the growing health of the association’s financial status.  This allowed the establishment of the sponsorship of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) efforts in the greater APG community to include the Annual Boy Scouts of America’s STEM Day at APG, among many others. 


On 23 October 2015 the Industrial Representatives Association (IRA) celebrated its fifty year anniversary at a gathering at the Chesapeake Inn Restaurant and Marina.  While the association has now been operating for over fifty years it is neither stayed nor stagnant but continues to evolve as is exemplified by something as simple as the updating of the association’s logo to a more modern one. 


While the association has remained viable by evolving with the times it clearly has not lost its steely focus on its mission to deliver value to its members through a format that has endured many challenges over these years, the monthly membership meeting, with time for government speaker and, as importantly, the “networking” time. 

 Here is wishing that the Industrial Representatives Association remains viable and effective for another fifty years!


Sincerely yours,


Tom Zalewski

Past President ’87 & ‘93