July 01, 2021
AFA’s Historic Vote for Change: A Letter from the Chairman
Fellow AFA Leaders,
This past week, June 23, 2021, your Board of Directors made a historic decision in the leadership of our Association: We voted to replace our complex and outdated Constitution with simplified Bylaws that will enable AFA to be more agile and responsive to opportunities and risks; more accountable to our members and stakeholders, and more effective in our mission to educate and advocate for American air power and space power and to support Airmen and Guardians and their families.
The changes replace our delegate-based governance model and does two important things: First, they appropriately vest more authority in our Board of Directors, and second, it gives EVERY MEMBER the right to vote for new directors and, when necessary, to ratify changes to the Bylaws recommended by the Board. The effect will be to make our Association the agile and responsive non-profit our times require and that our members deserve.
Under our present construct, it is the Delegates, not the Board, that make the most momentous decisions for the Association. This happens once each year, during Convention. In the high-tech, fast moving and dynamic society we live in today, that’s no longer good enough. Our Association must be agile and adaptable, responsive to change and challenges.
Board membership is another issue. Our current delegate structure does a great job of producing directors with significant field experience. Unfortunately, however, this system does not produce directors reflective of either the full diversity of our full AFA membership or the diverse range of experience in business, academia, high stakes fundraising, or non-profit leadership that we need to be successful as a modern non-profit business. Our new Bylaws will help us address this shortfall.
AFA had 230,000 members in 1986, organized into 310 chapters in the United States plus 33 more overseas. We had 253 Industrial Associates and 700 community partners. On any given day, somewhere around the world there was an AFA program advancing airpower. Today, however, we count but 90,000 members, down 61 percent; 153 active chapters in the United States, down more than 50 percent; only eight chapters overseas—less than one quarter. We have fewer Corporate Members and local community partners, too. Our organization has become less stable. From 1946 to 1986, AFA had just three Executive Directors (the position now called president); since then we have had 10, an average of one every 3½ years. This period of instability mirrors our period of decline.
As former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Mark Welsh told our board a year ago, “We are at an inflection point in AFA, and we must chart a new course for our future.” We must stop this downward spiral.
The Bylaws approved last week were crafted by a respected and experienced team of AFA leaders, aided by outside professional counsel. They did extensive research and were informed by industry best practices, AFA leaders, and outside experts. The new Bylaws ensure volunteer field leaders continue to serve on and inform our Board. They also enable AFA to attract new outside directors who can share expertise in business, academia, fundraising, and more. That will make our Board stronger.
To our Delegates, I want to add this: Having served in Field leadership posts for years, I well understand that being a Delegate and getting to vote at Convention is something earned, and that giving that up is hard. I ask that you do so for the good of the organization. In September, Delegates will have a choice: Vote “yes” to strengthen AFA, embrace all our members, strengthen our Board and governance, and build a strong future. Or vote “no” to remain on our present path. It really is that simple.
Your Board stands strongly in favor of these changes. But we cannot change, we cannot improve, and we will not succeed without your support. We are a grand Association, with a perfect mission that unites us all. Let us seize this moment to boldly transform our Association for a new era and a brighter future. Let us be inspired by the daring of our predecessors. And may our successors in years to come look back on us at this moment as proudly as we look back on the giants who came before us.
CMSAF Gerald R. Murray, USAF (Ret.)
Chairman of the Board