Over the past three years, AFCEA International has undergone several changes, both internally and externally. Some of these changes reflected the new world that we faced after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Others were a part of the internal activities that a dynamic organization undergoes to remain vibrant. The next three years hold more changes in store for the association, and they promise to be as important as those of the recent past.
Corporate membership is one of those topics that is not discussed very much, but it is vitally important to the health and vitality of AFCEA International. The association currently has about 1,000 corporate sponsors, and they range in size from one-person consulting practices to multibillion-dollar international corporations with more than 100,000 employees. These corporate members are active participants in most of AFCEA’s many endeavors. They often sponsor activities at AFCEA International conferences as well as at events hosted by chapters, and they make up a large portion of the exhibitors at AFCEA exhibitions.
As AFCEA International looks ahead in the new year, a look back at the past year may help provide a glimpse of the future. The association enjoyed many successes over the past year.
The U.S. Navy has reached a significant milestone in its drive for transformation. For the first time in my experience, the Navy has stated that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) stovepipes are detrimental to successful warfighting. Considering them as two separate entities is the road map to failure.
For years, national technical assets were the only game in town for military users of remote sensing imagery. Now, however, a new generation of commercial imaging satellites promises to play an important role in future military operations. Their improved quality and increased versatility may even change tactics and strategy for theater activities.
The success of military operations long has been influenced by intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. As far back as the U.S. Civil War, commanders recognized the utility of the detached high ground by sending scouts airborne in balloons, and the famous aerial dogfights of World War I evolved from the proliferation of reconnaissance aircraft over no man’s land.
Small businesses constitute a major element of AFCEA International’s membership. Their breadth of activity in many ways reflects AFCEA’s areas of interest, and the association is paying heed to their impact as well as to their needs.
In a way, small businesses are a microcosm of AFCEA. Their numbers have grown in recent years as larger corporations consolidated and advanced technologies began to emerge from smaller startups. No longer are large companies the dominant mainframes of industry. Now, innovation is distributed among a range of companies large and small, and all play significant roles in leading the information technology revolution.
AFCEA International is fast approaching its keystone event, TechNet International. For many years, this show has been the primary forum for accomplishments from AFCEA’s field and a showcase of technology for its corporate associates. The entire AFCEA family looks forward to this event, as both active volunteers and geographically diverse members make plans to come to Washington, D.C. These activists, who include regional vice presidents, chapter officers and Young AFCEANs, participate in daylong business meetings and offer advice to the AFCEA headquarters staff.
This marks the fourth year in which I have honored the distinguished efforts put forth by unsung heroes of AFCEA International. This group, known as the President’s All-Star Team, draws its inspiration from well-known sports designations. It serves as an appropriate metaphor to reflect the teamwork, dedication and hard work of this diverse group of AFCEANs who often toil out of the spotlight.
When someone mentions the term National Security, everyone immediately understands both its meaning and its importance. All military, geopolitical, economic, law enforcement and sociological elements come into play under the overarching concept of nation preservation. Laws are passed, militaries are formed, and foreign relations are defined all to ensure that a country’s existence remains unthreatened by potential adversaries.
The lines between the tactical, operational and strategic realms of warfare are beginning to blur in large part because of technology. Investments in command and control have changed the character of the battlespace, and while some of the new capabilities provide commanders with more control than they ever envisioned, new challenges are surfacing that must be tackled. The command and control capabilities that deliver the benefits of network centricity have consequences that today’s military and government leaders must address in their transformational efforts.
After serving as AFCEA International’s president for the past five and a half years, I have decided to retire. While a decision such as this is never made without reflection and deliberation, this decision was particularly difficult because AFCEA is more than an organization—it is a network of talented, dedicated and committed individuals.
The decision to assume the helm of AFCEA International was one I made very easily. This is a prestigious organization with an honorable mission and an exciting future, both of which would present anyone with a strong sense of opportunity.
I was having a ball in the private sector—great people, super bosses, exciting work—but I jumped at the chance to serve as your association’s president. It was Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, USAF, who recruited me; I will remain in his debt. Harry reminded me that the key requirement for this job is the desire to serve.
Good organizations do not exist in a vacuum, and AFCEA International is no exception. This association, like other dynamic organizations, is a work in progress. AFCEA’s leadership constantly strives to improve its service to its members, and part of that mission is to ensure that its members and guests fully benefit from their affiliation.
This association serves a multifaceted role. Rather than focusing exclusively on one aspect of a single discipline, AFCEA’s reach is broad without being shallow, and its activities span a range of different functions.
The recent success of network-centric warriors in operation Enduring Freedom has shined the spotlight on information operations. News reports are flush with stories of how allied forces employed information for precise real-time targeting of enemy assets. The results of these operations stand in testimony to their effectiveness: a brutal totalitarian dictatorship overthrown and its terrorist cohorts routed from their places of sanctuary.
Many of us who live inside the Washington, D.C., beltway are considering the ramifications of the 9/11 Commission Report. Foremost among the commission’s recommendations is the establishment of a director of national intelligence, or DNI. Experts are split on whether this new position would help eliminate intelligence shortcomings and increase efficiency, or whether it would impart lasting damage on the intelligence community when our nation is faced with a deadly menace.
As the world barrels headlong into the information age, a growing trend is beginning to alarm many experts in academia, industry and government. Despite the attractiveness of information technology (IT) as a profession, our prime stock of engineers and IT professionals has, by and large, been in our industry for more than 15 years.
Battlefield information systems, both in use today and being designed for the future, have gone beyond being a force multiplier to become a cornerstone of military operations. The technology of today, along with that being prototyped for tomorrow, means timely response to execute the commander’s intent and timely and accurate response to the individual warfighter.
Information technology’s role in homeland security and the defense of freedom cannot be overestimated. It is going to take an internationally coordinated effort to defeat terrorism, and information technology will be the key enabler that ties our efforts together. Indeed, one of the most oft-cited needs is for a network that allows local, state and federal government to work together in a major crisis or disaster—a challenge that encompasses networking, interoperability, security, collaborative tools and knowledge management.
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.