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Altman: Joint Chiefs to discuss long-term sequestration plan

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:39 PM

Sequestration.

It's a word I have come to hate. It sounds ugly and it is one of those words, like reputed, that the average human being never uses.

But as someone who covers the military, and, in particular, an Air Force base that employs more than 13,000 and pumps billions of dollars into the local economy, it is a word I have to deal with.

I have devoted many words over the past weeks to the subject. There are thousands of civilians facing a huge pay cut, a greatly reduced number of hours devoted to training pilots and, as I learned on Friday, $6.6 million worth of construction projects at MacDill Air Force Base that won't be going to local companies as the service prepares to cut more than $12 billion should that four-syllable word be triggered on Friday.

Those who run the military are beginning to issue dire warnings, concerned that cutting a half-trillion dollars from the budget over the next decade would weaken the nation. Then again, there are those who argue that the United States would still be spending more on the military than any other nation.

On Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will get a chance to talk about the acute and long-term effects of sequestration as well as operating on a continuing resolution, which in effect gives them less money to spend.

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young has called a hearing of his House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee to give the Joint Chiefs an opportunity to lay out their vision. The hearing is Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Thursday, I went to the Air Force Association Air Warfare symposium and spoke with a lot of contractors whose businesses rely on defense dollars. Some were expecting U.S. Special Operations Command, which will likely carry on the bulk of the mission in Afghanistan past 2014, will see cuts to its $10 billion or so acquisitions budget.

But not all defense contractors are glum about the future.

In fact, DigitalGlobe Analytics, has seen so much growth that it is having a ceremony Monday afternoon to mark the opening of an office in Tampa at the Bank of Tampa Building.

The company, which says it is now the largest American commercial satellite imagery firm with five satellites in orbit, has seen a 50 percent increase in local hiring over the past year.

The Tampa office "specializes in the area of geospatial predictive analytics," according to the company.

That is a field that "allows the company to crunch massive amounts of data … to help the military, law enforcement and corporate sectors anticipate human behavior and allocate scarce resources to the areas where future activities — including burglaries, terrorist attacks, or even shopping — are most likely to occur," according to the company.

The Tampa analytics office works with local military commands both on-site and off-site, including U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, according to Christine Bald, a publicist. The Tampa office also has oversight of personnel supporting U.S. commands overseas, she said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Suite 825.

This summer, Tampa will host a cool event — the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. It is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. More than 500 veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the games, July 13-18 in Tampa.

But to pull it off, organizers need about 3,000 volunteers. That's where you come in.

The games, presented by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are co-sponsored by the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

They are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments.

Volunteers are needed in all event areas, including setting up equipment at venues where the competitions are held, serving meals, and monitoring buses transporting athletes to various locations.

Volunteer applications are available at www.wheelchairgames.va.gov. They can be emailed to Wheelchair.games@va.gov or dropped off in person at the Voluntary Service Office, Room 2A-215L, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.

Deadline is June 13. For more information, contact Camilla Thompson, Tampa volunteer coordinator at Wheelchair.games@va.gov or call (813) 972-2000, ext. 6580.

And now for some really good news. For the fourth week in a row, the Department of Defense has reported no deaths in support of the war effort in Afghanistan. There have been 2,162 troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war.


haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629

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