The Link Between AFCEA Chapters and Headquarters

February 2003
By Lt. Col. Eberhard A. Mueller-von der Bank, GEA (Ret.), Regional Vice President, Central European Region

SIGNAL’s July issue featured a commentary by Michael J. Varner, president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter, about the value of the chapter organization. Next, AFCEA’s regional organization merits examination. Ever since AFCEA assumed its current structure more than 20 years ago—still as a national organization—its regional vice presidents, or RVPs, were the coordinators between a group of chapters in a certain region and the staff of the association. RVPs, as the extended arms of the AFCEA chairman of the board and the president, always have performed functions in support of AFCEA headquarters, in support of the chapters and have been instrumental in facilitating exchanges of experiences with colleagues in other regions. They are appointed by the chairman of the board, subject to confirmation by the Executive Committee.

While serving without compensation, similar to all chapter officers, they should have the support of their companies or sufficient personal income to defray the cost involved in fulfilling the RVP functions. Representing AFCEA headquarters within their region requires that they expend a considerable amount for travel to cover the region on a regular basis. Among other functions, they

• attend chapter meetings, especially after newly elected officers have to be sworn in;

• provide guidance and direction for the planning of chapter activities;

• provide advice and assistance when problems arise, based on their experience;

• talk to the membership about the benefits of the association;

• reward deserving members on a level above the chapter itself;

• build a bridge between chapters within and outside their region;

• revive chapters that are inactive or ineffective;

• offer overall leadership as mentors of chapter officers.

It is often overlooked that, according to the bylaws, the only real power vested in the RVP is the appointment of regional representatives—government and/or industry—to the Young AFCEAN Advisory Committee (YAAC). However, it cannot be overemphasized that this is one of the most important duties altogether. From the YAAC stems AFCEA’s future national and international leadership. Here young AFCEANs can look over the rim of their plate (to translate a German term) and find out what is beyond their chapter. Officially, RVPs have no voting power, except through their representatives to the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. Their power, however, rests in the continuous influence on and diligent work with chapters. Here the image and the future of AFCEA is shaped, and with individuals that are members of a defined group having access to several chapter boards, a certain similarity is assured, thus forming the basis of a real community.

Along with AFCEA’s evolution to an international association came a new quality to the job at hand. Today AFCEA is represented in about 30 nations around the world, which requires totally new tasks to be accomplished by each respective RVP. Whereas the support of headquarters had consisted of representing it vis-á-vis the chapters and helping implement AFCEA policies within the region, now it is necessary for the RVP to convey regional and national characteristics to headquarters and to advertise for understanding. Where AFCEA policies were oriented toward U.S. national regulations and legal provisions, it is required to find supranational solutions and common denominators. While AFCEA had been recognized as a professional and highly ethical association nationwide in the United States, it now is necessary to canvass for AFCEA in countries where the organization is a completely new “club” with a number of question marks behind it. One must overcome reluctance and misunderstanding before a new chapter can be created. In short, an RVP not living in North America has to preach to both sides, and neither side is already a choir.

During my time as the Central European RVP, I have found the group of RVPs—although not a formal body of AFCEA—to be the most internationally minded folks. By continuously looking beyond an individual chapter, they are trained to look beyond national boundaries. They accept concerns that are borne from having grown up outside of the continental United States, and they recognize and freely discuss problems that are associated with an organization growing beyond national boundaries. They are my friends.