Seizing the Future in a Time of Change

July 2008
By Kent R. Schneider

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.

During the Cold War, our association helped promote a vital interplay among government laboratories, the commercial sector and the warfighter. Many of the fruits of defense technology research flowed from government laboratories to industry, which in turn developed products to help the Free World deter a monolithic adversary. The end of the Cold War also saw the advent of the information age, and the flow of technology reversed, moving from the commercial sector to government.

Today, after 60 years of collaborative efforts dedicated to maintaining freedom, the world is a different place. The threat has changed; the governments we serve are larger and more complex; the global security community has been redefined; and training and education has become a major mission for AFCEA. The solutions we promote for government are based on technology that is changing at an unprecedented pace. Amidst all this change, AFCEA will continue to lead the effort to bring together government and industry with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible support to the warfighter.

For AFCEA to provide leadership, we need to anticipate what’s ahead for the future so that we can help the global security community meet new challenges. To ensure that we get that right, we have embarked upon a strategic planning process to achieve a common vision and framework for decision-making and investment over the next five years.

Since November, a number of people across AFCEA have been contributing to the development of the new strategic plan. I want to thank them for that because this is no small task. Last month the draft plan was sent to the entire AFCEA leadership for review and revisions. Through this review, we got input from every member of the Board of Directors, every member of the international staff, every regional vice president and every chapter president. The idea is to get as many perspectives as possible so that this plan truly represents the vision of all of AFCEA, not just the headquarters or a particular set of chapters.

So, what changes will you see as a result of this new plan? First, you will see a more common view of the direction of the association as we move forward. You will see a recommitment to our primary missions—the dialogue among government, industry and academia; and training and education focused on the technical specialties needed to sustain our global security community. All of the AFCEA leadership is committed to pursuing these missions in all their aspects and to optimizing support to all of our members.

Secondly, we will continue to expand our definition of the global security community we support, including the defense community, the intelligence community, and those involved in homeland security and the Global War on Terrorism. There is no doubt that the events of September 11, 2001, the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings, the July 7, 2005, bombings in the United Kingdom and other acts of global terrorism have redefined the global threat profile. They have dramatically changed the way governments around the world organize and act to combat these threats, and they have changed the way that government, industry and academia work together to meet the new demands. It is AFCEA’s role to help accommodate this change and to be a catalyst for the necessary dialogue among the players. All those who contribute to this effort must be included.

We are also focused on the application of the new Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies to our member services. We will explore ways to apply these technologies in the global security community to improve information sharing while maintaining the necessary level of security. I think all of our community recognizes the value of social networking and other means of enhanced information sharing, but many are concerned about the security implications of their use. We are dedicated to working with government, industry and academia to explore effective and secure usage of these technologies.

We can also use social networking technologies to better support chapters and members. We have more than 32,000 members and 145 chapters and subchapters around the world. It is often challenging to provide all the desired services to all AFCEANs. Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies provide a means to improve information sharing across AFCEA and to provide extended access to events, training and education, and networking opportunities.

What will not change in the new strategic plan is the respect for the heritage of AFCEA and our unwavering commitment to quality in everything we do. In this respect, we need the help of every AFCEAN to let us know if we are falling short of the mark with regard to any aspect of member benefits. This is still, and will always be, your association. And, as we embark upon this new evolutionary phase of service to our members, we continue to remain dedicated to meeting your needs and committed to staying on the cutting edge of technology for the benefit of the AFCEA membership in the future.