At AFA, 2023 Was a Tremendous Year of Growth
December 27, 2023
This past year was a historic one for our Air & Space Forces Association. We added members, expanded our conferences, and increased our digital reach, all while preparing for several major changes in AFA’s future.
First, we sold our 39-year-old, four-story building at 1501 Langston Blvd., and are hard at work preparing our new leased offices at 1201 South Joyce Street, just a short walk from the Pentagon and the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va. Our new state-of-the-art AFA Operations Center will be spread out on a single level, with a range of modern meeting and event spaces, brand-new video and podcast studios, and bright open workspaces to maximize collaboration and creativity to help better accomplish our mission. We are on cost, on schedule, and fully focused on occupying our new spaces in the summer of 2024! The new AFA Operations Center will be an asset for all of AFA, including our chapters and field activities as well as our professional staff.
Another major change in the next year will be the introduction of a new AFA President & CEO. After a five-year stretch of enormous growth, Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, USAF (Ret.), is stepping down for a well-earned retirement in 2024. Our search committee is actively engaged in the search for a new CEO, who will have to fill a big pair of boots as we take AFA into our next exciting chapter.
All of this comes at a crucial time. Our nation faces growing security challenges in every part of the world. It is no exaggeration to say AFA’s mission has never been more important.
This is clear from the way the public has responded to our work. More than 18,000 people registered to attend our 2023 Air, Space & Cyber Conference—up 10 percent over 2022. The jam-packed agenda included some 170 senior military and industry leaders. We sold out the exhibit floor and honored five Vietnam-era Prisoners of War, nodding to our past, as we also look to the future.
Last March, our AFA Warfare Symposium debuted at a new location in Aurora, Colo., and we are already gearing up for an even bigger show in ‘24. Placing the symposium in the heart of space country made an instant difference: Registrations grew 30 percent to more than 6,000 and we are on track for even higher numbers at the 2024 AFA Warfare Symposium, to be held Feb. 12-14, 2024. New next year: an exclusive Classified program, with briefings at the TS/SCI level, ahead of the unclassified regular show, and we will roll out the red carpet for the Space Force’s Polaris Award winners at a special evening event on Feb. 12.
Air & Space Forces leaders continue to turn to AFA to help get their message out and spread the word, both in person and virtually. Our Air & Space Warfighters in Action events covered topics ranging from command and control and battle management to electronic warfare and military operations. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Dr. Ravi Chaudhary, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment, unveiled a new Blended Wing Body Prototype aircraft before a live audience at AFA headquarters in Arlington, Va.
AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies celebrated its 10th anniversary this year as the world’s premier independent think tank devoted to the critical advantages of air and space power. In those 10 years, the Mitchell Institute has grown from two to 14 people; trained over 25 Air Force fellows; stood up a Space center of excellence along with a center for UAV and autonomy studies; authored over 130 reports and studies; and conducted over 100 aerospace nation video discussions with our nation’s top air and space leaders.
Mitchell’s Aerospace Advantage podcast now reaches about 18,000 listeners every month, and the think tank hosts both an annual East Coast Space Forum and West Coast Aerospace Forum. Its website is increasingly popular, serving up nearly 350,000 monthly page views, and Mitchell leaders generate roughly one million media citations annually. We are influencing decisions in the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, and partner Air Forces around the world, and the Mitchell Institute is now a regular stop for allied air chiefs visiting Washington, D.C. In 2023 alone, air chiefs from South Korea, Japan, UK, Australia, Italy, Germany, and Canada all visited. How America relates to and understands air and space power has been fundamentally reshaped thanks to the Mitchell Institute.
AFA’s reach is amplified by our award-winning media operations. Our award-winning Air & Space Forces Magazine experienced skyrocketing growth in 2023, with total page views increasing 324 percent over 2022—a total of more than 19 million page views in one year. The number of unique users increased 68 percent to 2.76 million and the time they spent on each page increased by 29 percent.
Our Doolittle Leadership Center is gaining traction. In 2023, the DLC conducted 19 leadership development workshops, providing its signature leadership course to more than 400 Airmen, Guardians, and DOD civilians at nine Air Force and Space Force installations around the world. The Center’s interactive “Lead, Develop, Care” curriculum develops hands-on skills that leaders at any level can apply to their day-to-day missions and responsibilities. After seeing the impact and feedback of the DLC’s tour de force in 2023, more DAF installations around the globe are requesting training for their personnel—and nine bases have already invited the DLC back for a second round.
AFA’s CyberPatriot STEM education program saw some 5,200 teams and nearly 20,000 competitors compete in its 16th season. As the world’s largest National Youth Cyber Education Program, CyberPatriot also conducted more than 300 camps for K-12 grade students and expanded its Alumni Network—launched in 2022—to nearly 1,000 former competitors. Meanwhile, AFA’s StellarXplorers National Space Design program saw 300 teams compete, and thanks to a partnership with Nova Space, each team now has access to its online Space Foundations course. StellarXplorers also welcomed Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, to its Advisory Board.
In 2023, AFA’s Wounded Airmen & Guardians program celebrated its 10-year partnership with Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2). Over the last decade, AFA has provided more than $1 million to wounded Airmen, Guardians, their caregivers, and Family members. This year, WAGP hosted the Air Force Warrior Games Trials closing celebration, and, in celebration of November’s Warrior Care Month, we hosted a weeklong mental health and wellness support, hospitality, and caregiver community building activities for more than 1,000 wounded warriors and their families.
In September, AFA partnered with the Air Force Cycling Team for the annual Memorial to Memorial ride, raising more than $15,000 for the Wounded Airmen & Guardians Program.
Another AFA support initiative began December 27, as newly minted Guardians received their first U.S. Space Force patches at BMT graduation. Each will also receive up to two Delta-shaped Space Force Family lapel pins to present to family members as a sign of their role in supporting their Guardians. The pins were designed and underwritten through an AFA United Forces & Families (F2) grant.
Supporting Airmen, Guardians, AND their Families remains a top priority for AFA. Our F2 program was well represented at AFA September, sparking new leads for Quality of Life initiatives in the new year. The number of new AFA members in the Active duty, Guard, Reserve, DOD Civilians, and military spouses categories increased 31 percent from 2022, largely due to targeted initiatives like these.
Looking back as well as forward, AFA celebrated the enduring heritage of Vietnam-era veterans in 2023, embarking on a year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Chapters across the country held local ceremonies and events honoring hometown heroes, and a nationwide group of volunteer leaders organized three full days of interactive panel discussions during a Defense Department sponsored “Welcome Home” event in May on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The whole series of events culminates on January 13 with a commemoration and service at the National Cathedral in Washington.
With so much going on, it’s no wonder AFA also saw membership grow, topping 113,000 individual members this year.
There is so much to be thankful for as we wrap up this year. As we close out this year, please remember all the Airmen and Guardians working around the clock to ensure our national security and protect our way of life. We hope you have a safe and happy and healthy New Year, and look forward to more great strides in 2024!
On your wing, Semper Supra!