History and Purpose of the Association
In 1948, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal established the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC) program. The JCOC program was designed to provide American business and civic leaders with an introduction to the roles and missions of the United States armed forces. In 1952, alumni of the JCOC program formed the Defense Orientation Conference Association (DOCA) to provide a forum for the continuing education of JCOC alumni on defense and national security affairs through briefings provided by senior leaders of the Department of Defense and the Department of State. Membership in DOCA was originally limited to JCOC alumni. DOCA now has a nationwide membership of civic and business leaders dedicated to continuing education on defense, foreign policy, and national security affairs. DOCA is committed to enhancing public understanding of current and emerging defense and national security issues.
DOCA is organized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit association. It maintains a non-political and non-partisan perspective and does not advocate for the needs of any particular military service, defense concept, or acquisition program. The association has no associated advocacy or lobbying arm. DOCA’s principal continuing education initiatives are built around conferences both in the United States and abroad that are supported financially by participating members. Most conferences, in whole or in part, include engagement with the U.S. armed forces at military installations. Conferences abroad routinely include engagement with the U.S. diplomatic personnel. In the last two years, DOCA programming has broadened to include independent analysts and experts, former senior defense officials and officers, parliamentarians, and journalists to provide the broadest possible educational experience. Beyond the continuing education of the members, DOCA expects that the information and perspective obtained through the conference process will be shared as broadly as practicable by members in their local communities. Post-conference engagement may take a variety of forms at the discretion of the members.
As part of its mission, DOCA maintains a long-standing relationship with the National Defense University. The association provides support, through the National Defense University Foundation, to both the International Fellows Program and the International Counter-Terrorism Fellows Program. DOCA members also have participated in organizing and leading events in the Field Studies Program supporting both groups of international fellows. Through the Field Studies Program, international military officers in these programs broaden their educational experience through engagement at the local level with American culture, government, and society.
DOCA’s “Mission Support” Initiatives
The DOCA Defense Fund, wholly supported by member contributions, operates under the association’s 501(c)(3) status and is managed by a committee appointed by the Board of Directors. Contributions made to the Defense Fund are restricted to support activities that further the national defense interests of the United States. These activities include, but are not limited to, the morale, welfare, and recreation programs for the armed forces and military families, wounded warrior programs, education, and other similar efforts.
In 2019, the DOCA Defense Fund sponsored military family recreation programs at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, holiday programs for military personnel and their families at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, and the largest competitive basketball tournament in the U.S. military. The DOCA Defense Fund also provided a grant to the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation to assist in the rehabilitation of wounded warriors through sports and to support Team Navy in the 2020 DoD Warrior Games. Finally, DOCA, through the Defense Fund, has a long history of support in the development of military leadership and new operational concepts through contributions to the nation’s professional military education institutions.
By supporting the National Defense University (NDU) Foundation, DOCA contributes both to the operation of a key institution in professional military education and supports the military-to-military relationship between the United States and our allies and partners through contributions that benefit the International Fellows and International Counter-Terrorism Fellows programs at NDU. In addition, this year, the DOCA Defense Fund provided a grant to the Naval War College Foundation to support the China Maritime Studies Institute, an important operational research entity deepening the Navy’s understanding of Chinese maritime power.
DOCA also accepts donations from members to the Defense Fund for specific “pass-through” to any organization that furthers the defense and security of the nation and is qualified to receive gifts as an authorized 501(c)(3) entity. The National Defense University Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund are examples of organizations that have benefitted in previous years from the “pass-through” donations of DOCA members. In addition, members used the “pass-through” option to support a number of initiatives and organizations in 2019, including the YMCA Food Pantry at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Higher Ground, Fisher House, the Naval War College Foundation, and the Army Cyber Institute.