From left, Col. Jim O’Brien, USAF (Ret), chief operating officer; Maj. Gen. Joe Lynch, USAF (Ret), general counsel; Gen. John Sheehan, USMC (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors; Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), president and CEO; Regina Chavis, chief financial officer; and Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), vice president, Government Relations, attended MOAA’s annual meeting of the membership Oct. 23, 2017.
MOAA leaders gathered Oct. 23 for the association’s annual meeting of the membership. ( Watch the meeting in its entirety.) Gen. John Sheehan, USMC (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors, opened the meeting, introducing the association’s officers: President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret); COO Col. Jim O’Brien, USAF (Ret); General Counsel Maj. Gen Joe Lynch, USAF (Ret); CFO Regina Chavis; and VP of Government Relations Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret).
Sheehan praised MOAA’s success as a lobbying organization during what he described as a “challenging year” in an “incredibly complex time.” He cited sequestration as a particular challenge and also told attendees, “You can expect TRICARE fees to go up.” He took note of the success of MOAA’s Keeping a Career on the Move military spouse symposium, held at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 3, which was attended by Ivanka Trump and other White House representatives, and thanked board and staff members for their role in MOAA’s successes. He also addressed the challenge presented by educating currently serving troops about issues and responsibilities, saying, “You have a parental responsibility to these young kids.”
Following Sheehan’s remarks, Atkins briefly summarized the current state of the association and identified goals for 2018. He identified finances as a “paramount” priority and also remarked on the “challenges of building consensus around our advocacy priorities,” noting the deep divisions in our nation also can be found within MOAA’s membership.
Atkins said his “proudest boast” was the drafting of the association’s 2017-2021 strategic plan, which he characterized as “a departure from business as usual.”
“The stakes for the military community are particularly high,” Atkins said, listing end strength, pay raises, housing allowances, survivor benefits, pharmacy copayments, and TRICARE fees as issues under consideration, even as Congress has been preoccupied with natural disasters, tax reform, and emerging economic and national security issues.
Regarding recent topics in the news such as the service of transgender troops and racial tensions, Atkins said, “Our membership is not of one mind, and it’s a challenge to strike the right balance,” but declared his conviction MOAA’s responses should reflect “timeless values of officership: fairness, equality, and respect for all citizens.”
After a video presentation highlighting the association’s 2017 accomplishments and laying out the priorities of the association’s five-year strategic plan, Atkins discussed the challenges presented by the current legislative climate. He praised Merry, who recently was elected cochair of The Military Coalition, and promised, “We will leverage our experience … to generate more victories.”
Atkins then turned to membership, citing growth in paid membership renewals and initiatives underway to increase acquisition of new members, including selection of a new advertising agency, a new marketing automation platform, and more effective use of data to inform MOAA’s efforts.
Atkins briefly listed multiple priorities completed in 2017, currently in progress, or planned for 2018, including:
- a new vetting process for products and services;
- a new pet insurance service for members;
- an improved website home page;
- better email personalization;
- transition to a new legislative action program, Engage;
- a Military and Veteran Networking Forum in September 2017;
- a series of spouse professional development symposia;
- the redesign of Military Officer magazine (debuting in January 2018);
- quarterly regional workshops for chapter leaders;
- increased chapter use of USAA funding and online dues collection;
- an upcoming website redesign;
- ongoing cybersecurity measures;
- a commitment to strengthening the association’s financial position; and
- recruiting and retention of top talent on our headquarters staff
At the conclusion of his remarks, Atkins said, “[MOAA’s] headquarters team remains committed to doing all we can to improve the quality of life and the quality of service for our members and for the entire military community, including military families, veterans, National Guard, and Reserve component members.”
Following Atkins’ brief, Merry briefly summarized the current status of the National Defense Authorization Act, identifying military housing allowances as particularly vulnerable, and noted the importance of building relationships with legislators and staff members on Capitol Hill. He also discussed potential changes to the TRICARE fee structure.
Before the meeting concluded, members of the audience were invited to question association leadership. Topics raised included VA benefits and “round-downs,” former officers as potential members of the association, and generational differences in how information is consumed.