It's an Exciting New Year

January 2011
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

As we move into the New Year, I want to give you a sense of the AFCEA focus for 2011, and a request.

Over the past couple of years, as we have processed your feedback and re-examined our value proposition from the perspective of AFCEA’s many stakeholders, two themes have emerged for immediate action. Our chapters are the heart of AFCEA. Everyone across AFCEA has worked hard over the past couple of years to improve support, coordination and collaboration with and among the chapters. This remains a work in progress, and I hear everyone saying we need to reach closure this year. As a result, we are declaring 2011 “the Year of the Chapter.” We also are hearing both government and industry say that AFCEA needs to expand government engagement, to find more ways to make a real difference in government priorities. Let me talk about each of these.

For the Year of the Chapter, AFCEA’s chapters are the primary touch point for the vast majority of its members, whether in government, industry or academia. It is critically important that we focus much of our attention and resources at every level to support the chapters. I believe it is even more important today because of all of the change that is occurring in the global security community. Major organizational shifts are underway in NATO, the United States and elsewhere; and the latest U.S. base realignment and closure (BRAC) process, shifting significant military organizations from location to location, will be completed in 2011.

All of this change is causing boundary issues among our chapters and demanding more coordination and collaboration among affected chapters. Many AFCEANs have asked that we review regional and chapter boundaries to see if simplification or realignment would ease some of the extra coordination and collaboration requirements. In this Year of the Chapter, we are going to examine every aspect of the relationships among AFCEA International headquarters, the regions and the chapters. We will leverage ongoing initiatives as well as a new chapter operations task force to ensure involvement of chapter and regional leadership and closure on significant issues.

As most of you know, the AFCEA International Board of Directors established a Governance Committee in 2009 to develop a comprehensive governance framework for AFCEA—new bylaws, a comprehensive rewrite of our policies, and a complete rewrite of our handbooks. This effort will be completed in 2011 and will capture all of the changes we achieve with regard to the headquarters, regions and chapters.

The focus on chapters will demand extensive chapter leadership involvement in the remainder of this process. We know well that there are many differences among chapters globally. The challenge is to embrace these differences while providing a framework that allows consistency where required and the ability to work effectively among all the elements of AFCEA. An important element is how we reconcile the planning and execution process among the headquarters, the regions and the various chapters. Often, because the planning and execution cycles are so different, particularly in timeline, we find overlap and issues with deconfliction. We also want to make sure that the interfaces among the headquarters, the regions and the chapters are as strong as possible across all departments in the headquarters and encompassing our entire mission set.

Finally, let me say that, while we have been listening and we think we have heard what you have told us about the needs for change, in December we  launched a survey of all the chapters to solicit their unfulfilled priority needs. We will examine your responses and use them to structure our Year of the Chapter initiatives. For any chapter that has not yet responded to this survey, please do so. It will not take much of your time, but it is critical to our efforts.

For government engagement, we take seriously our mission to promote an ethical dialogue among government, industry and academia. Increasingly, government and industry are telling us that more is needed. We hear you say that we should offer to provide a conduit for industry feedback on critical government initiatives and programs. We have done that in some cases by creating working groups, workshops, focus groups, studies, white papers and training—all targeted at providing timely feedback on important issues. The problem is that we have not done enough. We need to contribute more with deliverables that will make a difference by providing comprehensive industry feedback at the right time to enable government to make good and timely decisions. We also need to ask government to share its priorities so that industry can position to support government better. We have begun these initiatives, and we will keep you informed.

Finally, I am requesting all of you to participate in these two important objectives. We cannot improve support to and interface with the chapters without extensive chapter input to tell us what is important, what will work and what will not work. Similarly, we cannot improve government engagement globally without widely distributed chapter support. I mentioned that we are establishing a chapter operations task force to help work these issues. Please volunteer to participate on this task force. If you cannot do that, just provide input to me or to the staff on any issue or area where you feel you can contribute. We cannot do this without you.

Thanks as always for all you do for global security and for AFCEA. Happy New Year to all!