President's Commentary: Prepare for a Busy Year

January 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

The coming year will be full of activity and progress for AFCEA. The association continues moving in a positive direction, and the efforts that initiated this progress will persist.

We are not going to simply stay the course. Internal changes will be assessed, and the professional expertise inherent in our community will address many of the national and global challenges facing the United States, its allies and partner nations.

Today’s dynamic and changing security environment is unlike anything we’ve faced in past decades. We will examine the key points called out in the U.S. National Security Strategy and U.S. National Defense Strategy. These documents highlight five threats faced by the free world: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and global terrorism. AFCEA’s role is to assist in shaping its programs and efforts to support the dialog and debate that ensues with our allies and partners.

To this end, we will provide stability and solidify our presence in Europe. Further, the global challenges mandate that we evaluate expansion deeper into the Indo-Pacific region. The first target for assessment is India. We have begun taking steps in these endeavors and welcome any constructive thoughts our members may offer.

We will increase emphasis on the space domain. It has not received the prominence it deserves over the past decade and needs a strategic re-examination. Space must be reinvigorated and its magnitude highlighted. Most importantly, space must be available and protected in a contested environment.

Multidomain operation, or MDO, is another area that AFCEA will stress in the year ahead. With it, we are seeing the strategic and operational integration of the many capabilities. Our association is well positioned for action here with its strong representation in the C5ISR communities among chapters and committees.

At the heart of AFCEA activities is the focus on technology. Quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning are just some of the technologies taking on a greater role in national security. We will continue to emphasize the development of dual use and national security related technologies.

No examination of national and international security can be complete without addressing the cyber domain. It touches all aspects of life. Yet cyber has become a ubiquitous term and therefore has lost much of its focus. We will continue to be heavily engaged in thought leadership in the cyber domain. Much work needs to be done, and the intellectual discussions and debate need to be sharpened.

AFCEA will continue to emphasize workforce challenges and issues connected to the workforce in this technologically intense and dynamic environment. In a related action, we will review our Educational Foundation structure and activities. To that end, we should all consider increasing our support for STEM education, focusing on the K-8 grades. Students in that age group are attracted by STEM, but we lose them over time as they become interested in other endeavors. I ask each chapter with an education fund to evaluate if they are getting the biggest bang for their efforts in providing scholarships or if there should be a larger portion of those funds allocated to K-8 STEM education.

We must promote, emphasize and recruit a diverse membership base across all demographics. This includes aggressively recruiting new members, as well as providing meaningful leadership and mentorship opportunities for Young AFCEANs and EPIC members.

Finally, AFCEA Headquarters is changing its address. After more than 32 years in its Fair Lakes, Virginia, location, the association has sold its building. Designed in the mid-1980s, the headquarters was well-suited for the AFCEA of that time. But the association has changed over the decades, and maintaining a brick-and-mortar home along with 20 tenants is not one of our core competencies. AFCEA will rent space in a nearby office structure with modern amenities that will enable the association to continue its mission-focused activities without the overhead and distractions imposed by owning and maintaining a building.

AFCEA continues to offer much in the way of membership, industry, government and academia. We remain dedicated to emphasizing our core values and enhancing our brand. This coming year promises continued growth as we seek to provide thoughtful dialog in the myriad of areas that affect national and global security. This is not possible without our incredible membership, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers who continue to put fair winds in our sails. To all of you, we say thank you and best wishes for the year ahead.

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