A New Era Brings New Opportunities

January 2006
By Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.)

This year, AFCEA International marks its 60th anniversary. As with other successful organizations, the key to AFCEA’s future lies in its members. Our corporate, government and military members do more than just define the association; they also serve as the focal point of our activities, which are entering a new phase in the association’s storied saga.

As AFCEA embarks on a course into its seventh decade, I am very proud of the service that our association continues to provide to our members’ nations. This reflects well on the ability of our chapters and their regions to bring together government and industry to understand requirements and to develop solutions.

Governments all over the globe have expressed their great appreciation for our association and its activities. Through AFCEA International’s efforts, many government leaders worldwide have developed a good feel for the technologies that help them to protect freedom-loving people. Those endeavors are both a point of pride and a challenge for tomorrow.

What has made our association important is not its ability to define itself through self-congratulation, however. We always can do better. And, this year, we aim to do just that.

For example, our membership has grown by about 2 percent in the past year. We need to continue to find ways to bring more members into our community. And, as every AFCEA member understands, membership is a synergistic benefit to both member and association.

There is a huge wellspring of potential members in this high-technology world. For the first time in any nation’s history, an entire generation has been raised in an environment of information technology advances.

I like the idea of viewing the information technology professional in one of two groups: immigrants and natives. Most of the professionals that make up the leadership of today’s information community are immigrants. They came into this information technology realm without growing up in its environment.

However, the other group—the natives—comprises younger professionals that have grown up amid the silicon revolution. Their maturation through adolescence and through higher academia to the professional world paralleled the rapid growth of information technology and its capabilities. They are the generation that lives, breathes and thinks high technology.

These young information professionals soon will be the decision makers in the information technology world. They can gain mightily from AFCEA membership. And, the AFCEA community—including the government leaders who rely on this association for support—can benefit enormously from these young professionals. They represent a largely untapped resource that we must—and will—bring into our community.

As part of its outreach efforts, AFCEA has hired a marketing firm to further promote the association. This effort will expand AFCEA’s public footprint and will help individuals reap greater benefits from their association. The firm is conducting surveys to make certain that AFCEA is providing the right support for its membership as well as informing its members—current and future—of the benefits inherent in membership.

Among these benefits is service. The service that AFCEA provides to bring government and industry together in its members’ nations is rewarding both to its beneficiaries and to the association’s membership.

Another benefit is the opportunity for professional development. In addition to the courses offered at AFCEA headquarters and in Europe, the association also provides a steady stream of information on important events taking place in government and industry. This information comes via chapter luncheons, association-sponsored symposia and AFCEA’s two news organs, SIGNAL Magazine and its e-newsletter, SIGNAL Connections.

The new year will see more advances through partnerships with like-minded organizations. The association is experiencing a rejuvenation on its northern front with TechNet North, a symposium and exposition that will be conducted by AFCEA International and AFCEA Canada. It will alternate venues annually between Canada and New England/ Northern New York. TechNet Europe, which rotates its venue to a different country every year, continues to be a great medium for U.S. and European industry to understand where the governments of NATO are headed in this age of military transformation.

In the United States, the U.S. Army is working with AFCEA to meld Army Knowledge Management, Operational Tactical Signal and the Directorate of Information Management (DOIM) into a single event that will serve as an all-encompassing high-technology conference. The West 2006 conference in San Diego includes the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer. Other partnerships under development and underway will make existing conferences better. 

AFCEA begins this milestone year as a premier membership professional association. As AFCEANs, we have continued to excel at bringing people together, at promoting advanced education through scholarships and at keeping professionals up to date on important news through our print and digital publications. At the dawn of this new AFCEA decade, I see even greater possibilities for growth in AFCEA’s service to its members and to the Free World.