In the wake of the global economic downturn that began late last year, responsible governments and businesses established budget priorities to make sharp spending cuts. These efforts extended across a large spectrum of budgetary activities, and they were—and still are—necessary.
Our 145 chapters and subchapters are the heart of AFCEA. The chapters are the primary interface with you—our membership—and multiple surveys have told us that member satisfaction correlates most closely with the experience a member has in his or her chapter. The chapter is your primary collaboration and networking group, and it is the closest touchpoint for AFCEA services.
Each year we conduct a membership satisfaction survey so you can give us direct feedback on what is important to you and how well we are delivering on those areas of importance. More than 1,500 of you responded to the survey this year. These survey results, which I outline below, will help guide us in improving our association and its service to you.
One of SIGNAL Magazine’s focus topics this month is Southwest Asia. This area of the world receives nearly continuous attention in the global security community because of several reasons: the ongoing conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing threat from Iran, the strategic importance of this region of the world and, most recently, the combat between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In fact, this volatile region has seized the attention of the Free World for decades. Issues in this area will demand continued focus for decades to come.
I want to take advantage of this new year’s Source Book edition to share with you some of the exciting things that are going on in AFCEA. 2008 was a good year—a year of firsts for AFCEA and its membership. We completed our first strategic plan, which created a five-year vision for the association. We created a Strategic Planning Committee to follow through on that plan. We increased focus and emphasis on some important and growing components of the membership: small business, young AFCEANs and international members. To support these diverse groups as well as those who are remote from AFCEA Headquarters and the Washington, D.C., area, we expanded online services and introduced new means of collaboration and service delivery. We started the Solutions series of events—a new concept for AFCEA that combines physical presence and online participation in a more interactive and ongoing dialogue. We formed a Homeland Security Committee to focus year-round on this critical component of our community.
While information operations has been a priority to at least a small percentage of the global security community, it is becoming a mainstream discipline as part of the cyberwarfare initiatives now gaining precedence throughout government and industry. Recent experiences in Estonia and Georgia have convinced even the most skeptical person that cyberwarfare is a global priority and a significant combat multiplier.
Tactical communications have changed much over the years. This will not come as a surprise to anyone, but often we become caught up in the small, incremental shifts that occur each month or year and fail to recognize how fundamentally things have changed.
With the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan amid the Global War on Terrorism, it is easy to become focused on the Persian Gulf and U.S. Central Command, on NATO and Europe, and on the domestic homeland security threat. However, outside of these areas lies half of the Earth’s surface, and it comprises many of the challenges present in other parts of the world.
If you have not been to Europe lately, you need to reflect on how the continent has changed dramatically in recent years. Little has remained constant. The European Union has grown in scope and role and, with it, the euro has emerged as a major international currency. NATO has grown in size and mission, now embracing 26 nations.
Cyber warfare. Critical infrastructure. Increased threat. Information assurance—or information security—is not the endeavor it used to be. The democratization of the Internet has had the same, albeit unwelcome, effect on criminal cyberspace activities. The extensive incorporation of information systems and networks into every facet of our lives has created a web of vulnerability across the spectrum of society. A threat can emerge from anywhere at any time in virtually any form.
AFCEA was created in 1946 to promote an ethical dialogue between the defense community and industry in the wake of World War II. Over the decades, as the world has changed, so has AFCEA.
I am concerned-despite the discussions that take place in favor of information sharing, information security, network-centric operations and communications support to the warfighter-that the U.S. military remains a platform-centric force. That same case may be made for many NATO and other allied nations. Military leaders throughout the Free World continue to focus their discussions on tanks, ships and aircraft. These warfighting platforms are important big-ticket items that have a key role in warfare. But, to move from our industrial-age mindset to today's information age, I suggest that virtually every platform planning session include a discussion on how that platform fits into the warfighting network.