Meeting the Challenge

September 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

Despite the various associated national security and economic issues emerging worldwide, this can be a time of opportunity. Major challenges often compel bold steps and creative thought, which is why opportunity defines our future. The key is to identify and focus on shaping the appropriate future opportunities. For AFCEA, opportunities abound! AFCEA remains totally dedicated to increasing knowledge through the exploration of issues relevant to its members in information technology, communications and electronics for the defense, homeland security and intelligence communities.

The global geopolitical and economic environment will force government to take actions that it probably would not take if left to its own devices. The economics of necessity requires innovation in both policy and action. For the entire government, smarter buying is defining future acquisition. From a defense and homeland security perspective, tighter budgets are leading to opportunities for improved interoperability. The focus due to necessity should be on adopting common emerging capabilities that can help organizations carry out their missions with fewer fiscal resources. A shift to common solutions, where appropriate, vice disparate “unique” interoperable requirements, will lead to economies of scale and assurance of joint solutions and interoperability.

It is important for AFCEANs, from an association perspective, to look to the future while constantly being mindful of our rich legacy and the lesson we should embrace from that legacy. AFCEA is uniquely positioned to bring government, industry and academia more closely together for the ethical discussion of key national and international issues looming in the future. Leveraging the intellectual capital that comprises AFCEA membership and our partners is an imperative that will foster that dialogue and help provide solutions that otherwise might not be considered. In this role, AFCEA is well positioned to serve as a facilitator and enabler of creative ideas and thought leadership.

We are not a lobbying organization, so we can be an honest broker providing the candor needed to bring multiple parties together. This in turn will help forge better solutions that ultimately will lead to a stronger national and international security posture.

Opportunities for this ethical exchange of ideas abound throughout the free world. Budgetary challenges that are limiting the United States also afflict the economies of other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Similar security challenges, albeit often from different sources, confront nations around the globe. The same offerings that AFCEA can bring to the United States at the national level often can be applied to similar needs in Europe, Asia and throughout the Americas.

AFCEA long has had a presence in Europe through our office in Brussels, Belgium. The shared values with longtime European allies have formed the basis for peace and prosperity in the industrialized West for more than half a century, and that will continue. The United States is beginning to once again recognize that it is a Pacific nation as well as an Atlantic nation. The strategic rebalancing initiated by the new national security strategy does not signify a turning away from Europe, but rather it openly reinforces the continuing strategic importance of the Asia-Pacific region. AFCEA will continue to work closely with our European partners while simultaneously reaching out to embrace our partners in the Asia-Pacific regions.

Any organization embarking on a vital endeavor must solidify its base. AFCEA is no exception. We will examine our traditional core competencies to determine if they remain appropriate for the emerging challenges of the future. Where they do, we will build upon them. Where they don’t, we will make the appropriate adjustments.

Over the years, a popular phrase has been “think outside the box.” For AFCEA, we must also understand “what is inside the box” so the solutions that we apply don’t have an unintentional deleterious effect on our mission. As we reinforce our core competencies, we will assess new emerging capabilities and concepts by seeking and embracing thought leaders who may benefit government, industry and academia.

This approach can be applied to a wide range of opportunities. For example, one area that needs improved development and critical thought leadership is cyber. Many varied interests are playing in this area, yet the ball is not advancing at the pace it must advance. Cyber tends to be viewed from multiple perspectives with tightly focused advocates in each—for example, attack, exploit, defense and operations. The challenge lies in effectively integrating these functions into a cohesive capability under a command and control structure that is effective across government and industry. While the cyber discussion needs to continue, we at AFCEA have an opportunity to bring the different perspectives together and advance the discussion toward a more closely integrated solution for many of the cyber issues that persist.

History has shown that crises can spur governments, organizations and individuals to rise to the occasion to meet the challenges that confront them. Today’s challenges are no exception. AFCEA members, in particular, are in a unique position to play a major role in writing the next chapter of history. This is your organization, and the staff at AFCEA International has the privilege of manning the day-to-day watch for you. If you like what we are doing, tell five friends, and encourage them to join us through membership and active engagement with their local chapters. If you don’t like what we are doing, tell us so we can address your concerns. We are committed to be the premier information technology, communications and electronics association for professionals in international government, industry and academia worldwide.

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