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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who spoke at the GEOINT 2012 Symposium, was also slated to be a featured speaker at this year's event, which has been postponed until April because of the government shutdown.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who spoke at the GEOINT 2012 Symposium, was also slated to be a featured speaker at this year's event, which has been postponed until April because of the government shutdown. (U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation)

This year’s GEOINT Symposium was expected to see record attendance from hundreds of government and military attendees from across the U.S. and abroad.

In total, some 4,000 people from industry, academia and government were scheduled to attend the four-day conference in Tampa, Fla., to hear from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Betty Sapp, director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office; National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Letitia Long; and other senior officials about the latest on geospatial intelligence.

Those activities have been postponed until April 14 because of the government shutdown. The conference was originally scheduled to kick off on Sunday and run through Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, we have the director of national intelligence who has said in his over 50 years in intelligence he has never seen a more diverse [and] challenging set of threats around the globe to national security,” said Keith Masback, CEO of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. “Here we are poised to have the most wholesome, interactive discussion of the year about threats to national security, and [it’s] postponed because of the shutdown.”

Masback said he believes there is a pent-up demand for events like the GEOINT Symposium because similar conferences had been canceled for various reasons, and government travel and conference attendance have been affected by the sequester and backlash from publicized instances of overspending and mismanagement of government conferences.

“Overreaction to malfeasance of government-run events — it had a chilling effect on government and military people attending conferences,” he said.

The registration cost of the conference has steadily declined over time, and this year, military and government employees were offered free registration. Attendees would also have access to 30 hours of professional development training to hone their skills in processing geospatial information, activity-based intelligence and other areas.

“As the government works through the ability to send people to events, we wanted to make sure there was a clear dedication on our part to provide training and education opportunities,” Masback said.

For small businesses, events like the symposium offer face time with procurement staffs, chief executives and other decision-makers at the agencies to learn what their needs are and how to best address them, he said.

The actual costs of postponing the conference are unclear because some investments can be salvaged with the event being postponed rather than canceled. Attendees can request a refund if they aren’t able to attend the event in April and host hotels have canceled reservations.

“There are precious few opportunities for government and industry and academia to really exchange ideas and thoughts to interact in a really meaningful way,” Masback said. “At this critical time, to miss out on the opportunity to do that is a real losing proposition to everyone.”

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