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AFCEA Service Is a Timely Contribution

December 2001
By Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.)

The decision to assume the helm of AFCEA International was one I made very easily. This is a prestigious organization with an honorable mission and an exciting future, both of which would present anyone with a strong sense of opportunity.

I was having a ball in the private sector—great people, super bosses, exciting work—but I jumped at the chance to serve as your association’s president. It was Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, USAF, who recruited me; I will remain in his debt. Harry reminded me that the key requirement for this job is the desire to serve.

This sense of service lies at the heart of AFCEA’s activities. When the association was founded in 1946, its military and commercial leaders were of one mind. They foresaw a future in which government and industry would work together for the betterment of the Free World. In 1946 the groups came together to form a defense technology community that, 55 years later, is more vital to the future of the Free World than ever envisioned.

I am mindful of our great history as I step into the president and chief executive officer’s command station, but I intend to focus on the future.

One item always demanded of a new leader is his vision for his organization. In fact, AFCEA’s vision statement is pretty clear-cut—to be the information technology (IT) professional’s association of choice.

AFCEA also has an unambiguous mission statement: “AFCEA is an international non-profit education and professional association which provides an ethical forum for the interchange of ideas among governments and industry in the field of information technology to promote national security.” That vision and mission are on the mark, and I am not ready to change them.

Important as these statements are, they are not the first order of business on our AFCEA agenda. Instead, over the next four months I am putting my efforts into working with you to develop an AFCEA strategic plan to define where the association will be in three to five years. We also will generate a road map to get there.

Several factors are emerging as this plan begins to take shape. The U.S. Defense Department, along with its equivalents in the international defense community, is undergoing a transformation. Accordingly, there needs to be a transformation on the part of the IT professional’s association; AFCEA will transform as well.

Part of this transformation process will include an increased emphasis on homeland security, especially against asymmetric threats. This is a particularly broad mission that, like cyberspace, knows no political borders. With the United States now at war with an adversary that seeks to undermine—and ultimately destroy—freedom and democracy, the Free World must marshal all of its assets in what promises to be a protracted struggle that knows no borders. The military long has depended on the commercial sector to help provide vital technologies for deterrence and combat. That trend has been increasing steadily in recent years, and now private industry has become a key part of the ongoing battle against this spectral tyranny. Many of the companies involved in this effort can be found among the proud ranks of AFCEA International.

Some other aspects about the future of the association already are beginning to take shape. For example, AFCEA International must be knowledge-centric instead of network-centric. Knowledge is both the means and the goal for a prosperous information society. The association must be supporting its community in a knowledge-centric manner befitting our Internet age. Again, just as AFCEA is an international organization, knowledge knows no political borders.

My first weeks at the helm best can be characterized as focused on information gathering. I ask that AFCEA members be patient with me and allow me to continue to call on industry sponsors, executive board members, regional vice presidents, chapter presidents and as many lifetime AFCEA members as possible. Then, I will work with the international staff to formulate the strategic plan for presentation to the AFCEA International Board of Directors. My goal is to have this plan, or at least a full status report, ready for the board meeting in San Diego next month.

I do not intend for all these AFCEANs’ ideas and suggestions to disappear into the black hole of strategic planning, however. I intend to offer my commentary page in SIGNAL Magazine twice a year to guest commentators. For the February issue, I will offer this page to a regional vice president for his or her own views. For the July issue, a chapter president will be able to present a different perspective.

AFCEA International’s membership is another exciting element. The broad diversity in age and origin marks this group as a font of new and innovative ideas. Combining the expertise and wisdom of longtime members with the revolutionary thought of younger AFCEANs is a formula for an exciting and rewarding future.

I cannot overstate how much I am looking forward to being a part of AFCEA International’s future. The AFCEA mission is one that I am absolutely committed to, and I believe it is important to the security of the Free World. I think this association has a marvelous staff. And, the association has wonderful opportunities today and in the future. Taken together, these points create exactly the definition of a wonderful job.