I want to depart from my usual Commentary format this month to give you early notice about the upcoming AFCEA International membership survey. The information we derive from this survey is critical to us in our planning and budgeting process for the coming years.
It is fitting that this month’s SIGNAL Magazine includes a focus in on the U.S. Army. The month of August also features the 2009 LandWarNet Conference, the Army’s premier forum for information sharing and training in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) and information technology. LandWarNet 2009 will be held August 18-20 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The preeminence of the expanded use of cyberspace, the desire for more openness in government, and the demands for faster and better information sharing within and among enterprises—particularly in the context of inter-agency and coalition information sharing—have changed fundamentally the demands of information security. The wider reach of our networks and the quest for timely, relevant information have improved decision-making but have made us more dependent on cyberspace and more vulnerable.
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.