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Shutdown hampers attendance at defense conferences

Oct. 11, 2013 - 06:06PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER and MICHELLE TAN   |   Comments
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The partial government shutdown and travel restrictions placed on Pentagon civilian and military officials who are still working is hampering attendance at defense conferences.

At least one major conference has been postponed and uncertainty surrounds several upcoming events.

On Wednesday, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation — which organizes the GEOINT Symposium, scheduled for next week in Tampa, Fla. — postponed the event until next spring due to travel bans on military and government personnel.

At a satellite conference in Washington on Wednesday, scheduled DoD speakers were replaced with industry officials. Speakers from DoD, NASA and the Commerce Department all canceled. Attendees expressed disappointment that government officials were not present.

Only active-duty military and civilians supporting “excepted activities” — like the war in Afghanistan — are working. About 10 percent of the Defense Department’s 700,000-plus civilian workforce is furloughed.

“Unless connected with excepted activities, training and travel would have to be stopped,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale warned in a Sept. 27 briefing.

The Pay Our Military Act — which Congress passed on Sept. 30 — might allow DoD officials to attend conferences. However, no formal guidance has been issued. The act allowed DoD to bring back 90 percent of 350,000 civilians being furloughed.

Other upcoming conferences that may be affected by the shutdown are:

■ The Association of the United States Army’s annual conference — an event that typically attracts more than 25,000 people — which is less than two weeks away.

■ The Association of Old Crows — an influential group that advocates for military electronic warfare programs and policy — is scheduled to hold its annual symposium at the end of the October. ■

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