President's Commentary: Happy New AFCEA Year

January 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

What a difference a year makes.

AFCEA International enters 2016 on an upward trend across the board. The association definitely is moving in the right direction, as membership, revenue and events are up. Association committees are solidly on their feet, providing key thought leadership to AFCEA and other organizations, including the Obama administration.

From Europe to the Asia-Pacific region, AFCEA’s credibility is incredible. The association recently held its first cyber event in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, and it has been asked to provide education and training in Eastern Europe. With a continued strong working relationship with NATO and its Communications and Information Agency, AFCEA will be co-hosting an event in Tallinn, Estonia, in June. This summer also will see a classified cyber event in Washington in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, among other organizations. The intelligence committee will continue to feature leading members of the intelligence community at classified and unclassified events.

This issue of SIGNAL Magazine includes the second edition of The Cyber Edge, SIGNAL’s quarterly special section. The Cyber Edge helps raise the intellectual discussion of events in today’s cyber world, and it complements the work of AFCEA’s cyber, intelligence and technology communities.

But these successes do not mean we are going to rest on our laurels. AFCEA will take action to further its standing in 2016.

First, the association is beginning the year by conducting a thorough assessment of its mission and focus. This effort seeks to identify where AFCEA can make the biggest impact, especially in light of the evolving international security environment. The look ahead extends into 2017, when a new presidential administration will take over and potentially change U.S. government policies.

This mission assessment will determine how AFCEA can enhance its reputation, strengthen its processes, improve its agility and continue to build as it moves forward. Participants include community leaders in industry and former government members who have known AFCEA for many years and have a close relationship with us. They will evaluate an established set of assumptions that will be updated over time—a living list. In effect, those assumptions will be challenged with an eye toward strengthening AFCEA’s activities. This group will generate a flexible and dynamic plan by early spring, and we will revisit it from time to time.

AFCEA also is looking at partnerships with other like-minded organizations, some of which already have reached out to us. We will assess these opportunities on a case-by-case basis. We also will evaluate existing partnerships and look for ways to improve joint activities.

We are working more closely with both our industry and government customers, including internationally, to determine what they want from AFCEA. In addition, the events team at headquarters has developed a holistic model for forecasting how an event will succeed. It considers venues, content, speakers and other variables to determine whether AFCEA is forecasting attendance and revenues correctly—and, above all, if an event is delivering what customers want.

AFCEA’s committees are examining new areas and topics in which the association can expand its brand. Spectrum is one example; spectrum and its management are challenges that have evolved over time. Electronic warfare and the impact on spectrum will be a player in the next major fight we have.

We are looking at how to partner with combatant commanders, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. The first step will be to develop a framework for increasing AFCEA’s presence and support into the Pacific Rim and the Far East. We must ensure that the association’s activities support the combatant commander’s strategy in that region.

AFCEA also will strive to strengthen its position in Europe, which is illustrated by the new events in Sofia and Tallinn and the relationship we have with NATO. Domestically, we will consider what the role should be for us in Silicon Valley as the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security increase their presence there.

AFCEA will continue to assess and refine the model for the Educational Foundation.

At its heart, AFCEA is a membership organization, and the association will double down on its recruiting efforts in the coming year. Particular focus will be on adding Young AFCEANs and expanding membership diversity.

AFCEA aims to leverage and increase the momentum we picked up in 2015. We want to provide sound thought leadership and seek new opportunities to grow. We have an incredibly talented and a fully dedicated staff at headquarters that is totally committed to all our members.

If you have thoughts on how we can improve, please let us know. Above all, this is your association. All of us at headquarters feel privileged to support you. We eagerly welcome constructive comments.

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