The Backbone Of AFCEA

July 2002
By Michael J. Varner, president, Rocky Mountain Chapter

AFCEA International is the world’s premier society for command, control, communications and information technology professionals. AFCEA serves some 138 chapters on four continents, and it is the individual chapter that serves the membership around the world. The chapter, with its board of directors and countless volunteers, provides the leadership and resources that really make events happen across the spectrum of government and private sector entities.

Each AFCEA chapter depends solely on volunteers to administer its many activities. Approximately 65 percent of the members are affiliated with industry, and 35 percent are affiliated with the U.S. Defense Department. The chapters’ primary objectives are to provide professional development opportunities for their members and to serve as the premier local forum for technology interchange.

Since AFCEA’s founding in 1948—which arose from the establishment of chapters—it has been the chapters around the world that have aggressively assisted in bridging the gap between government requirements and industry capabilities. They provide opportunities for technology interchange in the areas of command and control, computer and communications systems engineering, intelligence data processing, and information technology. This is accomplished through monthly luncheons, symposia, seminars, technical expositions, trade shows, tours of government and industry facilities, and training forums.

AFCEA chapters are passionate advocates for advancing the educational levels of their members. Sponsoring annual professional development events in addition to presenting an educational component in regular chapter meetings is a high priority as is supporting local scholarship and awards programs, and encouraging greater participation by Young AFCEANs.

However, the chapters are involved in far more than professional development and technology exchange. Pursuing many avenues for fulfilling the needs of the membership, the chapters foster a healthy and growing organization by sponsoring activities that interest a broad range of participants. This approach has led to growth in individual member recruitment and retention.

For example, chapters engage with local military and civilian agency partnership programs and with various educational institutions in their local areas to encourage students at all levels to enter careers in communications, computer science and engineering—both defense and industry related. These efforts are based on the belief that a strong and creative technical work force is crucial to our nation’s future. That is why chapters provide scholarships to high school students, college students and military personnel. Related activities include supporting local science fairs, providing teacher grants and providing special recognition to teachers.

This commitment to education extends beyond the classroom, as chapters sponsor community activities and partnerships. Some chapters partner with organizations such as the Challenger Learning Centers that have been established across the United States to encourage interest and learning in space sciences. By supporting these organizations financially, the chapters give students at all educational levels the opportunity to learn about space, engineering, communications, information technology and a host of other technical fields.

Recognizing the accomplishments of members is another important role of the chapters. They send nominations to the AFCEA International awards program as well as announce local chapter awards recognizing chapter and individual member achievements and activities in Chapter News, published in SIGNAL Magazine.

It is the exceptional leadership of the boards of directors and their dedicated volunteers that produce results beyond expectations in all aspects of chapter operations. A chapter’s growth in membership, annual programs, new initiatives, active member participation, strong educational programs, leadership role in the community, and sponsorship of community events are what its all about. It is the unselfish, patriotic commitment of volunteers that makes individual chapters, AFCEA and the Free World great.

The chapter has a high calling that is felt around the world. It is a calling to serve the United States and its allies and to support our military and industry members and our local communities. It is a calling that includes enabling the critical close working relationships between the government and private sector that are necessary to ensure that the Free World’s critical infrastructures are protected in a world of mutually dependent vulnerabilities, which was highlighted on September 11.

The chapter is the backbone of this wonderful professional organization, and the men and women volunteers are who sustain the chapters. With the precious sweat equity of hundreds of volunteers, the chapter truly does make all the difference in the world when it comes to facilitating the coordination and direction of the Free World’s resources toward our enduring goal of democratic freedom.