The New Year Heralds a New Era forAFCEA

January 1999
By Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.)

This year will mark a watershed event for AFCEA International; one that we think will be very beneficial to all of our constituencies: government, military, industry and academia.

AFCEA International’s objective always has been—and will continue to be—to inform the public, to provide professional development opportunities, and to bring together industry and government with unquestionable ethics. As part of this thrust, for more than 50 years AFCEA has held its annual convention and exposition in Washington, D.C. Recently known as TechNet International, the event has served to consolidate association sponsors, members and their related technologies—in effect, AFCEA International’s identity—under a single roof.

In recent years, even as it has continued to be the largest nonprofit government information technology show in Washington, TechNet International has seen its attendance figures drop by a small percentage. This is due primarily to the defense drawdown and the accompanying stresses it has placed on commercial budgets and government personnel.

This drop in attendance has had its impact on the association. An association, even a nonprofit, has a revenue stream that is mandatory for its continued well being. Revenue generated by TechNet International supports AFCEA International and underwrites many of the association programs. This includes membership. To keep dues affordable to as wide a range of information technology professionals as possible, AFCEA International chooses to make up these funds by using TechNet International revenue to subsidize membership costs.

These exposition revenues also support headquarters operations and professional development. Ensuring the continued success of the association’s largest annual conference and exposition is essential to the vitality of the organization and its support for its membership.

To provide the same services in the future that have been provided in the past, the association must seek new, improved solutions that are consistent with changes occuring in the world at large.

Several years ago, the AFCEA board of directors empowered the association to broaden its footprint. This entailed going outside traditional arenas, such as the Defense Department, to provide a professional development service to other federal, state and local government organizations. Two nondefense chapters already have initiated operations in the Washington area—the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and the Department of Energy in Germantown, Maryland.

Now, a key step in this direction involves TechNet International. This year, AFCEA is teaming with FCW Government Technology Group Incorporated, publisher of Federal Computer Week, to produce a conference and exposition that reaches broadly across the entire scope of government operations. FCW was planning its own federal government exposition, GovTech, which was slated to take place only six weeks prior to AFCEA’s TechNet International. The two events would have been competing for overlap audiences among government information technology professionals. To ensure greater success for both organizations, AFCEA and FCW have chosen to combine strengths and present attendees with an event that is slated to be unlike any other in the past. By joining forces, the two organizations can eliminate the overlap and bring complementary assets to support a single, large event.

Thus is born GovTechNet International. It has the potential of being an even better show than the two events would have been separately—the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Bringing a greater number of attractions under a single roof increases the potential attendance, as professionals see the advantage of visiting a larger variety of exhibits and events in a single location.

The teaming arrangement allows AFCEA International to bring a wider degree of information technology solutions to the entire federal government. The technical program that the association historically assembled for defense professionals will be complemented by a program assembled by FCW for all attendees to GovTechNet International.

This new approach does not signal abandonment of the association’s traditional audience, however. GovTechNet International will focus on defense, intelligence, science and engineering, as in past AFCEA International events. This year’s conference will see an expansion into environment, finance, administration and even social services. This will provide an increased opportunity for information technology professionals to find solution sets to the myriad of problems they face each day.

AFCEA International and FCW have created a limited liability corporation to run GovTechNet International. This preserves the association’s nonprofit status and also ensures that AFCEA International and FCW can maintain the ethical relationships they have with their federal government customers.

Visitors to past TechNet International expositions should find this change transparent. The new event will continue to feature first-rate panel discussions, breakfast and luncheon speakers and exhibits. Change will take the form of increased opportunities.

This approach corresponds to events taking place in both government and business. AFCEA International must keep up with the pace ofrevolution in the information technology arena, and the broader venue is a step in that direction.

To continue to serve as the premier information technology association, AFCEA International must reflect the changes occurring around it. The corporate world is replete with mergers and acquisitions, and national governments are teaming in actions ranging from military hardware development to coalition operations.

At AFCEA International, the hope is that the new GovTechNet International will be a vehicle to carry the association’s government and industry partners into the next century. The emphasis, as ever, will be on information technology solutions. The goal, as always, will be a win-win professional development partnership for the association and its members.