A prominent industry group creates a new chapter right on the space coast

AFCEA International's new Space Coast Chapter is up and running.

The professional organization AFCEA International has launched its 139 national chapter right in Orlando, Florida. It’s meant to help facilitate connections for members of the space industry with government agencies. It’s even calling it the Space Coast Chapter. To learn more about how this came together and what the chapter has planned, I spoke to Tony Brown, who is Director of the Products/Software Division for TM3 Solutions, Inc. and will be leading the new group.


Interview Transcript: 

Tony Brown  So, this all came about through a series of some funny things that I probably wouldn’t want to say on air, but I could say, because it’ll make people laugh. But basically, I came to the Florida region from Washington DC, after COVID. I was kind of looking for scenarios to kind of grow my networking because I was still flying back and forth, back and forth to DC for meetings and after COVID things kind of, you know, shut down or they did shut down. And so, I started to look at venues and the Florida area for networking. And I was already doing some work with our exploration with SOCOM and the combatant commands over in Tampa. The Tampa AFCEA chapter is a very strong chapter within AFCEA. Of course, they support the combatant commands, so CENTCOM, a lot of the tenants out of MacDill Air Force Base. So, I started getting involved there. When I got there, it was still the Tampa chapter, became the Small Business chair of that chapter, and started to really get involved. And then at some point, we decided to call ourselves the Central Florida chapter. And within our logo, it had Cape Canaveral, and also Orlando, saying that the Tampa region was so how should I say, well established with their AFCEA chapter, when we voted to extend our region and call it the Central Florida chapter. I kind of looked at Orlando and I said, well, I don’t know very much about Orlando. I am physically based near St. Augustine. So, I’m on the east coast of Florida. And knowing that there was really not much representation for the Canaveral area, I started to dip my foot into what that could look like. Ironically, Eric, a funny thing. I went to a trade show or trade Expo down there. And we actually had an AFCEA a table that one of the purses, the tradeshow venue had actually given us. And I didn’t have any collateral about AFCEA. And as people would come and say, hey, what do you all do? I was like, Well, I’m with AFCEA. While I’m thinking I’m in DC, and everybody knows what AFCEA is. And people are like, what’s AFCEA? And I’m like, oh, God, I remember leaving that venue, very distraught and wondered how this was going to happen. As we had some other meetings, I met someone his name is Justin Filler. He’s with a company called NewSat. He says, hey, if you’re really interested in doing this, we’ll make sure we get people that are interested. But let’s keep you know; we have to keep it moving. Because there have been efforts to get a chapter started a while ago after the other one, the previous Canaveral chapter when you told it. there been some efforts, but it didn’t. It didn’t grow any feet. So, we started having a what we call it space coast presence events. And Eric by the third event, something really unique happen. The participants at the event, were chanting AFCEA Space Coast, and that’s when I knew it was real. And at that point, we really put a lot of efforts into getting a solid chapter started. And it took about took 11 months, but within a 10th or 11 month it started getting real and here we are now as though 139th AFCEA chapter.

Eric White  Wow. So clearly, there was a lot of enthusiasm to start this chapter. What about it is going to make this one unique. I guess I should ask there you just said 139 chapters, the Space Coast chapter probably one of the more unique names Some of the chapters that I’ve seen, at least from an AFCEA perspective, what sets you all apart?

Tony Brown  Totally agreed. And I’m glad you picked that up. So, I think a number of things, as I look at it, when I first got down to the Florida region, I would come down to the Canavero region, because it’s so point of entrance, right? And I would come down, and I was like, ah, it looks like it’s growing, but it’s not quite there. And then, as you saw, when Space Force was starting to get settled, and actually started, launches, for whatever reasons, may be undisclosed, and some disclose the ULA launches with NRO, and then also SpaceX. So, as I’m seeing all these launches, and some of them being federal, and then also you had NASA, I said, Wow, this is this is this region is really starting to grow with the space programs, as they have been over the last three years, and especially with Space Force. So I thought, and I thought as the community, the and the tenants down at Patrick, I really believe that an AFCEA chapter would be instrumental as this whole area is growing, and also just very unique, and the mission for Space Force and all of the other all the other tenants at Patrick to be able to have kind of an app co platform, which would offer the collaboration, and your stem, scholarships, all of the all of the values and virtues that encompass the AFCEA organization as a whole.

Eric White  And so yeah, you kind of finished up by discussing what I was going to ask you next. What does this mean, now for all of those folks who have really grown with the Space Coast, it’s crazy that you say, you know, it wasn’t quite there yet, when it was referred to as the Space Coast. And it just, you know, wasn’t prime for the picking just for from a government standpoint, but now, with the growth of the Space Force and the really the reinvigoration of US air or US space travel? What does this mean for the industry as a whole, especially down there?

Tony Brown  Eric, it’s, again, you know, fun, I don’t mean, to be cliche, in my, in my responses, it’s kind of the sky’s the limit. I mean, the projects, and the missions that are that are going on down here are just actually mind boggling. So many of the any, any of the military establishments, even, you know, NASA civilian, also, you know, foreign partners. There’s just so much going on with space right now. And again, I’m gonna do it again, I hate to do this, but it’s, it’s the final frontier, right? It’s one area, that we as a nation, and also not just for exploration, and the good of mankind, as we’re speaking up, like with the NASA projects, but also in the DOD, in the DoD sector with trying to achieve space dominance and make sure that our nation is protected.

Eric White  Yeah, you’ve been at this for a long time, if I could just, you know, finish it up here, pick your brain on what, you know, where you see things going. And you say the sky’s the limit. But, you know, what does that mean? Are we going to see just continued growth in this sector? Or is there a saturation point?

Tony Brown  In my mind, but from what I can see, I don’t really see a saturation point. I mean, if you look at, I kind of look back at the army, I looked back at Navy, I’ve looked at Intel agencies, and scenarios like their missions. Right. And certainly, I would say that the US Air Force has air superiority across the world, I would say the Navy, the same in the same token, right? And space, now that’s an open area. And I think a lot of our adversaries are well, I don’t think but we know that a lot of stories are or are looking to achieve space dominance. And by the way, whatever that means. For all intents and purposes, I just, I don’t see a saturation point anywhere soon.

Eric White  Looking towards the future, anything that you all have set up on the horizon, so far, is there anything that we can certainly plug for you here.

Tony Brown  On the AFCEA side, one of the things that I think is important with this region and, and the tenants over at Patrick, one of our goals is to really have a collaborative set of communications with them. So, we want members, the tenants of Patrick, which, Eric, I gotta say something else. I got down here. And I thought it was just Air Force and Space Force and a couple of other tenants that were out of Patrick. Well, I got down here and I learned that there are a number of very high value and very well-known tenants that are down here. So, I’ll tell you a quick story I was I was going to a meeting at an agency under defense human resource agency called our administration called Domi, which is a diversity platform within a DOD sector. So, I thought that was interesting, right. And then, as I’m getting directions from the guard, that he says, go past the State Department hanger, you’ll notice that there are a couple of Coast Guard planes outside of there. And I’m thinking Coast Guard State Department I didn’t like that. I know NRO is down here and a National Recognizance office. And also, as I went past as one of the tenants here that has really been instrumental and participation with AFCEA has been AF tech. And I believe that’s the Air Force Technical applications, technical applications. And when I found out about their mission, I was like, wow, just out of curiosity. Have you heard of AFtech?

Eric White  No, I have not.

Tony Brown  Okay, well, Air Force to technical applications. I think it is center, but they’re responsible for monitoring nuclear treaties around the world. And I’m like, wow. So, as I started to learn about a lot of the tenants here, I really wanted this AFCEA chapter to be a collaborative organization or platform where we could talk to leadership with these tenants and find out what they could use from AFCEA as a platform to help them fulfill their mission. We just really want support from the community down here. I I’ve had a lot of folks ask about volunteering efforts. We plan to do, you know, a bunch with a scholarship with scholarships and also work for us development and also the students. It could be K through 12. Kind of, you know, introducing them into a potential career opportunity and, and also grooming the next workforce in order to support the commands here.

Eric White  Tony Brown is leader of the new space coast chapter for AFCEA International.

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