Farewell

September 2001
By Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.)

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.

AFCEA members uphold the finest standards of professionalism and ethical partnerships that you will find within any organization. Throughout my travels on behalf of AFCEA, I have been constantly impressed with the quality and the dedication of AFCEA’s membership at large. The strength of this extraordinary organization, in my experience, is derived from the volunteers who are the heart and soul of what this association is all about.

In this information-charged time, AFCEA offers knowledge to its constituencies—the government, industry and academia. We provide professional development opportunities through events and symposia and through AFCEA Educational Foundation awards and scholarships that help the next generation of leaders prepare for their roles in tomorrow’s world. SIGNAL Magazine, AFCEA’s monthly technology publication, also is an important part in the mix of keeping the AFCEA constituency informed and knowledgeable.

Equally important in the AFCEA offerings are the networking opportunities that create a genuine dialogue between governments and industries in an ethical environment—worldwide.

Of all the associations with which I am affiliated, AFCEA excels at emphasizing service to the government. Many organizations focus on their corporate members, and of course, AFCEA greatly values its industry partners; however, AFCEA also concentrates on government requirements and offers unparalleled service to the government and military.

Our membership rolls demonstrate the truth of this assertion. As president, I was able to meet with many of the people behind the chapter structures, and I was pleased to see first hand the educational, networking and professional benefits they received from their participation. Government, active-duty and retired military personnel as well as members of industry and students know that AFCEA offers what they need, and they become involved.

I am proud of AFCEA’s accomplishments during the past five and a half years. The field program and the volunteers worldwide continue to do a magnificent job. When the U.S. Defense Department experienced a significant draw down of forces, and companies were undergoing mergers and acquisitions, AFCEA held its own and maintained its membership.

All of our chapter and much of our headquarters activities are devoted to raising money for scholarships and awards. I am pleased to say that during my tenure these funds consistently increased. Last year we awarded more than $1 million for the second consecutive year and gave funds to many of our overseas chapters to further their science and mathematics education and professional development efforts.

I am also very pleased with the progress at the international level, in large part because of the efforts of our general managers and regional vice presidents. Their dedicated work has made AFCEA a truly international organization. They are a special group of people who devote much time and effort, sometimes at the expense of both family and job, to help the chapters grow and expand local services. AFCEA has extended its reach because of its members’ untiring efforts. I thank everyone involved who kept the momentum strong for AFCEA’s continued international growth.

While I am leaving with pride in the way AFCEA has grown its field programs, its educational program and its services to members worldwide, I am disappointed by the financial challenges the association has had to overcome during the same time frame.

In response to changes within our industry, including the potential of a smaller customer base, AFCEA embarked on a partnership aimed at expanding our traditional TechNet International conference and exhibition and creating a new, broader event. Unfortunately, the effort proved a financial failure. As AFCEA was on the cusp of recovering from this event’s losses, the economic downturn added an additional draw on the association’s resources.

While AFCEA experienced two years that did not meet budget expectations, the AFCEA staff has responded, and the turnaround has begun. Through hard work, the staff has developed a solid plan that will enable the association to meet its strategic and financial goals in the next fiscal year as well as in the future. While this has been a difficult period for the association, AFCEA has continued to operate and provide the same high-quality service it has offered for more than 50 years. Because of the professionalism and dedication of the headquarters staff, the internal struggles remained imperceptible to the field program, and we are headed, once again, in the right direction.

I believe that AFCEA must continue to look for ways to provide greater service to our industry and our members and to respond to change.

As I think back on the wonderful experiences I have had representing AFCEA International all over the world, I realize that no words can aptly express my gratitude for the hospitality that was extended to my wife and me during these travels. The largest chapters to the smallest made us feel part of their community. Although the AFCEA family is extensive, it takes the time to get to know the individual. For always making us feel welcome, I thank you.

Finally, what I value most about my time at AFCEA is the opportunity I have had to work with the volunteers in the field and the headquarters staff. These unselfish people make membership in AFCEA more meaningful. Thank you all for your steadfast dedication to excellence.

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