MITRE-AFCEA Multi-Faceted Collaboration Spans 55 Years

October 2017
Topics: Communication Technology (General)
MITRE and the non-profit membership organization AFCEA have partnered for decades. Our role in supporting AFCEA’s efforts is to provide an ethical forum for government and industry to exchange ideas.
Panel sitting at a convention in 1963
The ESD/MITRE panel on "The Management of Electronic Systems Acquisition" at the AFCEA convention on June 4-6, 1963, in Washington D.C.

Advancing science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) education initiatives. Supporting conferences and research that enhance military communications. Promoting the exchange of ideas and knowledge between government, industry, and academia. These are a few of the ways that MITRE collaborates with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International (AFCEA).

MITRE and AFCEA also share a common goal—help develop solutions to some of our nation's most critical national security challenges. Not surprisingly, MITRE has played an active role as a member of the organization for more than five decades. "We're a sustaining member and strategic partner of AFCEA," says MITRE's Lucinda Spaney, a long-time active member of the association.

"MITRE's role in AFCEA has evolved over the years—and it continues to grow."

Advancing the Science of Military Communications

One of MITRE's core values, knowledge sharing, is a key component of our partnership with AFCEA. Each year, the association provides many educational opportunities, and MITRE has a history of collaborating on many of these events. For example, we hosted the first-ever AFCEA technical symposium for the Northern Virginia (NOVA) chapter in 1979.

MITRE was also a founder of MILCOM, an annual event that became the premier conference for military communications. Now a three-day conference co-sponsored by AFCEA and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), MILCOM includes a wide variety of technical presentations, tutorials, and exhibits, as well as keynotes and panel discussions of policy and operations by government leadership.

We continue to be an active sponsor and participant in MILCOM. In the last 10 years, MITRE staff delivered more than 130 papers and presentations at the annual event. The effort will continue in Baltimore, Maryland at MILCOM 2017 from October 23–25.

STEM Internships Encourage Students in a Vital Area

Spaney says that one of MITRE's biggest contributions at the chapter level has been sponsoring AFCEA scholars each year. Sponsored by the Lexington-Concord chapter in Massachusetts, the program focuses on graduating high school students interested in pursuing careers in STEM fields. AFCEA awards scholarships and coordinates with local companies to offer 10-week, paid internships to the students.

We've regularly hosted AFCEA student fellows in a variety of disciplines for decades. In fact, it's not uncommon to have students return as interns in subsequent years. The repeated exposure to MITRE's work program provides them with additional learning opportunities. It also broadens our pipeline of possible new hires.

"It's more about providing valuable work experience for the students than earning money," Spaney says. "It helps them stretch their skills, capabilities, and personal demeanor as a background for college. It's a big development experience for them – MITRE supervisors and co-workers do a great job of mentoring."

"MITRE's long collaboration with AFCEA is a part of our role as an operator of federally funded research and development centers," says MITRE's Eric Koerner. "It's a mutually beneficial relationship. From a MITRE perspective, we're contributing to AFCEA's causes and promoting STEM education. And it provides a networking opportunity for us, as well as the military and industry."

Young AFCEANs Build Leadership Skills

Another important learning and networking opportunity within AFCEA is the "Young AFCEANs" group, for members who are under the age of 40. "Young AFCEANs provides leadership skills, builds camaraderie, offers networking opportunities with the business community, and helps people understand the work culture of the military, for example," Spaney says. "It's a good opportunity for our employees, and I would like to increase involvement."

Earlier this year, AFCEA’s 40 Under 40 recognized MITRE's Dan Walters. This annual award goes to 40 individuals ages 40 and under, for significant contributions in a technical STEM field. Honorees are chosen for providing innovation, thought leadership, and support to their client or organizations using information technology.

Involvement at Many Levels

Spaney has been involved with AFCEA for decades, first becoming a member of the Lexington-Concord chapter and representing MITRE in the Fellowship program, and then running the overall chapter program for many years. Having worked on special initiatives and committees, and served as president of the chapter, she's currently a board member. The chapter includes Hanscom Air Force Base and the surrounding Greater Boston Area, and counts more than 700 members.

Several other MITRE employees are active in the leadership of the Boston-area chapter; Mark Maybury and Eric Koerner serve on the Board of Directors; Jay Kanavos handles the science teaching tools awards; and Alan Shoemaker is the historian and VP for recognition. As a board member, Maybury notes that, "It's a privilege to work on shared national challenges with our AFCEA partners. Their internship and STEM programs are noteworthy in developing the next generation of defense leaders."

Beyond the Lexington-Concord and the Northern Virginia chapters, MITRE employees from our sites around the world are active in their local AFCEA chapters, including those in Belgium, Germany, and the United States (Colorado, Florida, California, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, as well as other states).

In addition, the MITRE-AFCEA partnership continues to grow at both the national and international levels. Former MITRE President and CEO Alfred Grasso is a former chairman of AFCEA and currently serves on its Board of Directors. William A. LaPlante is now an Executive Committee member; John Kreger is chair of the Homeland Security Committee; and Lori Scherer is on the Intelligence Committee.

Our staff has won a number of AFCEA awards. MITRE's Eliahu Niewood won the AFCEA International 2017 Distinguished Award for Excellence in Engineering; Marion Michaud received the 2017 AFCEA Women's Appreciation Award; Mark Maybury received AFCEA's Distinguished Award for Excellence in Information Technology in 2016; and Spaney won the Chair’s Superior Performance Award in 2015. AFCEA also honored Grasso with the prestigious David Sarnoff Award in 2015.

—by Blair Gately and Kay Upham

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