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A New Year Dawns for AFCEA

Tuesday, January 02, 2010
By Kent R. Schneider

As we kick off the new year, it is appropriate to give you an update on AFCEA—what have we accomplished over the past year and where we are headed in 2010.

The year 2009 was good for AFCEA globally. As most of you know, we put both a strategic plan and an execution (500-day) plan in place. These plans are important to achieve a common vision for AFCEA and to provide a framework for decision making at every level of leadership. In these plans, two fundamental tenets of AFCEA were reaffirmed. First, AFCEA is a member-based organization, and service to all our members is Job 1. Second, our chapters remain the core of the association.

It also was a growth year for AFCEA in spite of the economic slowdown. The fastest growing element of AFCEA has been small business membership. Small businesses now constitute 80 percent of the number of AFCEA corporate members, and we have worked hard to enhance support to the small business community within AFCEA over the past two years. We appointed Tammy Goehring as the small business manager at AFCEA International. We also have a very active small business committee working with us on programs and serving as the communications hub among small business members. Chapters also have focused on improving services and engagement with small business members.

International involvement grew in 2009 as well. The level of activity in Europe and NATO is up. We have restructured our regional vice presidents in both Europe and Asia. Chapters in Europe, Asia and the Americas have been engaged actively in bringing together government, industry and academia.

Throughout 2009, government leadership has been looking for more interactive ways to engage industry to yield specific deliverables. Larger conferences are continuing, but we are conducting more workshops and other small forums to address key topics where government/industry collaboration is needed. This trend began in Europe, and it is gaining momentum in the United States.

The AFCEA Intelligence Committee continued to grow in effectiveness in 2009 and has become the model for community-focused committees. It continues to innovate and add services. Based on the effectiveness of the Intelligence Committee, we have created committees for Homeland Security and Cyber. These new committees are gaining momentum, and I expect great things from them in 2010. New emphasis on technology is causing us to realign the Technology Committee as well. Communities of interest will be formed within the Technology Committee, and we will accommodate additional technologies of interest as they emerge.

Education and training remains a cornerstone of AFCEA. Our efforts on education became more effective through 2009 and have continued to grow. I have had the opportunity to visit chapter scholarship programs and training events, and I am impressed with the scope and quality of these programs. The young people are amazing, and the chapters are making a real difference with these programs. Similarly, the AFCEA Educational Foundation continues to provide critical scholarships and grants. Thanks to the generosity of many AFCEANs, Fred Rainbow and his staff in the Educational Foundation have been able to grow these programs each year.

The year 2010 promises to be an equally good one. AFCEA will maintain its emphasis on small business and international activities. I encourage everyone to continue to engage the functional committees that coordinate communities of interest across the association. We need your ongoing support of the education programs. Your good work at the chapter level and in support of the Educational Foundation is enabling a number of incredible students who otherwise would not be able to attend college to do so.

I am committed to increasing the emphasis on recruiting and retaining young AFCEANs in 2010. I need everyone to help in two ways. First, I need members to be good ambassadors for AFCEA to spread the word and get more young people interested in our association. When I talk to young AFCEANs who have joined recently, many tell me they would have joined sooner had they understood the value of membership to them in their careers. The value proposition is there, but we are not getting that message out in a way that is compelling.

Second, I need you to encourage young AFCEANs in your organizations to participate in various activities at both the chapter and international levels. If you are in a position to allow them to participate by making time available, please do so. Many tell me they are not allowed to participate. The value to you and your organization is the professional development they get by participating. They cannot engage if they are not given the opportunity. We will lose young people as members if they can only watch from the sideline.

Finally, in 2010 you will see increased efforts to focus events on topics members care about. So, you need to tell us what is important to you. Do that both at the chapter level for local events and at AFCEA International for national and international events. We need to know where your focus is—and don’t hesitate to tell us when you no longer see value in an event. We have consolidated events where we can, and we will do more of this. We cannot grow or even sustain the current number of events. Government cannot support that number with participation and speakers, and industry cannot afford the sponsorships, exhibits and participation. Help us identify duplication or events with waning interest. We can work across chapters and headquarters to find ways to bring events together and still produce a good outcome for the chapters.

I look forward to a great 2010. It is all about you. Participate. Tell us what is important to you. Contact me at CEO@afcea.org to provide direct input. Have a great year.