Change Works

January 2007
By Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.)

Governments, militaries and businesses worldwide are in the midst of various types of transformations. AFCEA members can be pleased with their own association’s embrace of change. It always is important for an organization such as ours to transform as nations around the globe adjust to the dynamic information age as well as the changing nature of conflict and security amid the Global War on Terrorism.

One of the most striking AFCEA changes is taking place at TechNet International. The association’s longtime annual pre-summer show in Washington, D.C., is undergoing a transformation of its own. This year’s iteration will see a new venue and a greater focus on education, training and networking. The event also will offer a reduced emphasis on exhibits.

This is not to say that AFCEA is abandoning its focus on technology—far from it. But, our research has shown that in Washington, D.C., as well as in many other world capitals, strategists and government decision makers tend to predominate compared with customers. Technology users and customers often are found outside of national capitals in various locations where budgets actually are executed. In the United States, major AFCEA technology exhibitions can be found in Tampa, Tidewater, San Diego, Honolulu, Colorado Springs, Fort Huachuca, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Fort Gordon and Fort Monmouth, just to name a few. Many of these shows extend their focus beyond that of local customers to include the international community.

At the heart of any association lies its membership. AFCEA will be working to increase its rate of growth in membership. The next year will see a great deal of time and effort expended to find those things that are important to individual members and to make them known to prospective new members. Longtime AFCEANs may be familiar with the association’s benefits and opportunities, but these may not always be obvious to others. We must find a way to convey better just how much of an advantage it is to join the AFCEA community, particularly for new and younger members.

SIGNAL Magazine—which like AFCEA just celebrated its 60th anniversary—still blazes new trails in its coverage of AFCEA areas of interest. The magazine continues to be a premier source of information on new technologies from industry leaders and important insights from top government and military decision makers. No other publication provides this vital coverage to the AFCEA community, but SIGNAL is not resting on its history. The association’s flagship publication is complemented by its e-newsletter, SIGNAL Connections, which has begun its fourth year amid continued growth in content and in readership. SIGNAL Magazine’s Web site underwent a thorough redesign, and this past September saw the introduction of digital SIGNAL, in which the entire text and imagery of the paper product now is available on the Web through the AFCEA Member Portal. These new media versions complement the paper magazine well, which continues to appear on the desks of key decision makers both in the United States and abroad.

Education is another important element of AFCEA’s activities. The AFCEA Educational Foundation continues to provide huge amounts of scholarship money to deserving students, and it is expanding those efforts. Along with AFCEA chapters, it now provides scholarships in Canada, Australia and Europe. This work continues to be an AFCEA strong suit. This association always has recognized that technical education is extremely important to the future of the Free World, and the information age has increased that emphasis. Our efforts to nurture a sustained base of technological expertise will grow with the information age.

And that age has changed the way that governments operate. Governments worldwide have embraced information technology as the linchpin of their civil and military operations. These governments are exploiting commercial off-the-shelf equipment and solutions for their needs. A wise customer must know just where to invest its funds—in governments’ case, their taxpayers’ money.

Much in the same manner that the intelligence community turns data into actionable knowledge, AFCEA uses its bridge between government and industry to generate knowledge out of their actions and capabilities. Rather than going to each individual corporation to learn what is available, government customers have AFCEA to connect them with providers and their solutions.

AFCEA’s efforts in fostering information system knowledge take place through several venues. They can be chapter meetings and luncheons, headquarters expositions and symposia, association committee meetings or a combination of these. Participants can learn technical requirements as well as which new technologies are being developed. Companies can plan to market their products to serve government needs, while government can learn which technologies are emerging from commercial laboratories and plan its purchases—and its own dedicated research and development—accordingly.

Professional associations consist of professional people, and AFCEA is the association for the information technology professional. As a result of the networking and the understanding that AFCEA generates among industry and government officials, the leaders of the Free World are able to draw upon vital information technologies to equip their warfighters with the best systems possible in the Global War on Terrorism. Change they may, but our efforts continue unabated.

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