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Airmen need commander's OK to attend symposium

Jan. 31, 2013 - 01:05PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 31, 2013 - 01:05PM  |  
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Despite restrictions on travel, airmen are allowed to participate in the Air Force Association's symposium next month in Orlando — if their commanders approve, a service official said.

Air Force leadership sent a Jan. 14 memo to the major commands telling them to cancel all travel that is not mission-critical, including "conferences and symposia (such as functional conferences), staff assistance visits and training seminars." The annual Air Warfare Symposium is scheduled to take place Feb. 20-22.

The Air Force is facing the threat of massive cuts in defense spending set to take place in March if Congress cannot agree on how to cut the deficit. Adding to the uncertainty, lawmakers may pass a temporary spending measure in lieu of an appropriations bill for this fiscal year, putting all new military construction projects on hold.

The Air Force will pay to send airmen to the symposium in an official capacity, but local commanders have final say on whether going to Orlando is mission-critical, the Air Force official said.

Since registration for the conference is already up from last year, that signals the service's strong support, said retired Lt. Gen. Dick Newton, vice president of the Air Force Association.

"In previous conferences, certainly the last three or four, we've only been able to secure approval in terms of days," Newton said.

AFA, however, will have about 10 percent fewer staff at this year's symposium than last year, said Newton, who said the AFA has been tasked with streamlining staff presence in Orlando.

The symposium is important because it provides a venue for the Air Force to communicate why it is necessary, Newton said.

"As defense dollars are being squeezed out of the U.S. budget; this is a great time for the American people to hear from Air Force leaders as well as U.S. defense industry leaders why it's important we remain the world's greatest aerospace power as a nation," he said.

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