The Beginning

In the autumn of 1976 a dedicated group of AFCEANs, spearheaded by representatives from industry and the Defense Communications Agency's Command and Control Technical Center, foresaw the need for an AFCEA presence in the Reston/Tysons Corner area. These visionaries recognized that this area was rapidly becoming a high technology center of excellence for both Government and industry. The closest AFCEA chapter met in Washington, DC, making it difficult to actively participate. Furthermore, the Washington Chapter focused on high level speakers who addressed policy issues. The Northern Virginia group desired speakers and programs that were more technically oriented, and addressed the needs of the majority of AFCEANs in the area.

Thus the seeds were planted for the creation of an AFCEA presence in Northern Virginia. This initiative generated considerable debate among its proponents, AFCEA Headquarters and the Washington Chapter. In early 1977 the parties reached a compromise and the Northern Virginia Subchapter was born. The first group of Subchapter officers were selected by committee, and included:

President Bob Schwartz Honeywell
1st Vice President Maj Joe Locascio, USAF DCA/CCTC
2nd Vice President Dr. Dave Alberts MITRE
Secretary Ralph Magnotti BDM
Treasurer Sam Hunt PRC
Program Chairman Maj (Dr.) Walt Figel, USAF DCA/CCTC

The new Subchapter held its inaugural meeting on February 25, 1977 at the Marco Polo Restaurant in Vienna. Dr. Albert E. Babbitt, WWMCCS Systems Engineer at DCA, spoke on "The Evolution of WWMCCS". Over 200 people attended, packing the restaurant to its limits. While this response surprised many, it mainly confirmed the beliefs and visions of the Subchapter founders. Northern Virginia was ready for AFCEA.

The officers adapted well to this outpouring of support. Subsequent meetings were moved to the Tysons Corner Holiday Inn, to accommodate the number of attendees. At the AFCEA Convention in June 1977, Bob Schwartz received the AFCEA Meritorious Service Award for his contributions.

The Growth Years

A lengthy period of sustained growth followed and, in June of 1982, the Subchapter severed its ties to the Washington Chapter and became a full chapter. Attendance at Chapter meetings grew as well, and in May 1986, the Chapter was forced to relocate once more, to the newly-opened Sheraton Premiere. During the 1992-93 season NOVA became the largest chapter in all of AFCEA - a distinction NOVA still holds today.

Over the past 30 years Chapter officials have maintained and nurtured the revolutionary, innovative character of its founders. New initiatives and positive results have been based almost entirely on the spirit, leadership and dedication of the individuals who have served in positions of leadership and the countless hundreds of others who have devoted many hours of volunteer service.

In May of 1979, NOVA held its first Technical Seminar, hosted by MITRE Corporation. The theme was "Global C3 Needs, Technology and Transition." This professional seminar became an annual event, designed to explore in depth, important defense related C3 issues. In April 1987, the theme of these seminars was changed, when the first Forecast to Industry was held at the Naval Surface Weapons Center. With extensive support from DCA (and its successor DISA), the forecasts grew and became the major source of Chapter scholarship funds.

While the industry forecasts served NOVA members well, chapter leaders saw the need to expand and refocus these efforts. As we entered the new century NOVA initiated military service IT days to give our members opportunities to learn about Army, Navy and Air Force programs and new business pursuits. These programs have grown exponentially over the past 5 years and sold out in 2006. Once again chapter leaders saw a need and met that need.

NOVA initiated many other professional and social events to serve the needs of its members. In February 1980 the Chapter hosted the first Sweetheart Ball, to coincide with Valentine's Day. The dance has become one of the most successful black tie events of the winter season. Attendees enjoy an extended period of socializing, a gourmet meal, dancing to the music of a big band, and numerous door prizes. In October 1984 the Chapter created NOVA News, the first ever monthly newsletter published by a chapter. It has been cited by AFCEA International Headquarters and used as a model for other chapters.

Recognizing the support of its corporate season table holders, NOVA initiated the Executive Roundtable in 1989 at Fort Myer, VA. Attendance is limited to season table holders. High level Government speakers are invited to share their views, in an informal non-attribution setting. In 1990 the NOVA Chapter hosted its first annual golf tournament at Andrews AFB. In 1991 NOVA hosted a Career Development Conference for its young members. This event was the catalyst for NOVA's successful programs for Young AFCEANs.

In 1992 NOVA created a Task Force on Women and Minorities in Leadership. The Task Force hosted periodic breakfasts, with speakers or panel discussions on topics important to all members. 1995 saw two more important initiatives: the start of a series of professional development breakfasts and the very popular financial planning seminars for members. NOVA met and conquered the worldwide web in 1996. The Chapter now has its own home page. In 2001 NOVA invited the DISA Notables to sing the National Anthem at each luncheon. They have been performing continuously ever since.

Scholarships became an important component of AFCEA NOVA’s portfolio from its creation in the late 1970s. During the 1980-81 season, NOVA formalized its relationship with George Mason University and gave the Engineering Department $15,000 - proceeds from the Technical Symposium that year. The George Mason Subchapter was chartered during the 1984-85 season. With proceeds from its professional and social events, he NOVA Chapter was able to gradually increase its annual scholarship awards every year. During the 2005-2006 season the overall funding for educational programs consisted of the following:

  • $170,000 to the chapter scholarship program
  • $100,000 to AFCEA International for veterans’ scholarships
  • $55,000 for education grants
  • $25,000 to the national disaster relief fund
  • $21,000 for science teaching tools
  • $20,000 to the AFCEA International scholarship fund

In 2007 NOVA committed $100,000 to a joint partnership with the Fairfax County Public School System and the Udvar-Hazy Center for a distance learning program in science and mathematics.

The Future

The past 30 years have been exciting. The NOVA Chapter and its members have won more international chapter and individual awards than any other chapter. Chapter leaders have never lost sight of the goals and aspirations of those who founded the original Subchapter. They have also maintained their vision and spirit. With a fresh cadre of volunteers each year, NOVA is poised to continue to grow and prosper.

STEM Scholarship Application Open

The AFCEA NOVA Educational Foundation awards a significant number of annual merit-based scholarships to qualified students who are pursuing degrees in STEM technical fields supportive of our national security. 

Applications due February 28, 2018.


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