AFCEA International marks its 70th anniversary this year. While much has changed as the association evolved over the decades, the founders’ guiding prin- ciples still hold true and are even more relevant now.
Established after the end of the most destructive war in
human history, AFCEA today serves the Free World as it
deals with burgeoning threats amid
an uncertain future. The challenges
that faced the postwar world then
have their counterparts in this millennium, and AFCEA is uniquely
positioned to help respond to them.
Over time, the association has
moved from being an events-based
organization to a networking nexus
that generates thought leadership.
AFCEA’s many active committees,
which include highly regarded and
globally renowned experts, have
provided diverse views to the top
levels of government. The association’s areas of involvement
have expanded beyond adding letters to C3 to include other
disciplines that are key elements of international security, such
as intelligence, homeland security, technology and cyber.
Formed to serve as a bridge between government, industry
and academia, AFCEA in its early years could count on a
large and vibrant defense industrial base and a research and
development (R&D) community heavily focused on defense.
Much of this R&D was performed by the government, and
that strong national security base served the cause of freedom
well. Today, that base’s maintenance depends extensively on
the commercial sector. The font of technology innovation has
shifted from government establishments to private industry,
which represents a new dynamic. With defense and security
spending either leveling or declining across the Free World,
AFCEA fills the need for a credible source to foster a dialogue
among government, industry and academia.
AFCEA is not fixed in its ways, and it never has rested
on its laurels. It has changed to suit the needs of individual
constituents, and it is pushing ahead with an agenda geared
toward meeting the requirements of the present and the
future. Already rife with young experts who bring disruptive
ideas to the discussion, the association is working harder to
embrace—and mentor—a new generation of diverse innovators and thinkers.
This includes promoting women in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Why would
any smart nation or society relegate 50 percent of its intellectual capital to the bench? AFCEA is striving to integrate work
force diversity and diverse thought leadership into its activities.
We also are strengthening the Educational Foundation’s efforts
at providing STEM scholarships.
Supporting the next generation of scientists is critical to
national security as potential adversaries threaten to overtake
and surpass the technological edge held by the United States
and its allies. Because rapid technology development is no
longer the exclusive purview of government laboratories, many
nation-states and even terrorist groups are tapping into commercial technologies to achieve their aims. Often, Free World
nations are hindered by government regulations that slow
technology acquisition, and only by creating an international
environment that promotes an open exchange of information
among countries sharing the same democratic values can we
stay ahead of our enemies. AFCEA can play an important role
as an ethical conduit for that information among like-minded
governments and companies.
Some of this activity has taken place recently. From Japan
to Hawaii to Estonia to Paris to Romania to Spain and, next
month, Rotterdam, AFCEA is accelerating its work to promote
this international information exchange.
Firmly established in Europe with NATO, AFCEA is looking to augment that relationship with a greatly increased
footprint in the Asia-Pacific region. This huge theater is
dominated by the tyranny of distance, but it is in our interest—and that of our international partners—to develop the
association’s presence there.
AFCEA constantly is striving to strengthen its role
throughout the government and the military. This includes
nontraditional civil government departments such as Homeland Security, Treasury and Transportation, particularly the
Federal Aviation Administration. Ultimately, cyber will be
AFCEA’s platform because it spans all aspects of the government and the commercial sector, and both sectors must be
part of any solution to cybersecurity challenges. The association can bring civilian government, military, academic
and commercial organizations closer together in a holistic
approach to the cyber issue.
Seven decades of success have proved that AFCEA is an
enduring association with a rich legacy. The value of bringing
together government, industry and academia has been recognized by all parties. The association’s committees are a valuable
resource that can fuel solutions to today’s challenges. As it
begins its eighth decade, AFCEA will provide the impetus and
a vehicle for helping to ensure that the United States and its
partners remain the strongest force for good in the world.
BY LT. GEN. ROBERT M. SHEA, USMC (RET.)
The Past as a Preview of the Future
To share or comment on this article go to