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National Security Forum coming Tuesday

Post by News Tribune Staff on May 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm with No Comments »
May 30, 2008 4:16 pm

Another item for your calendar (a short advance I wrote for this weekend’s papers):

Two emerging U.S. military initiatives – the new U.S. Africa Command, and the Air Force’s Cyber Command – will be the focus of this year’s Pacific Northwest National Security Forum in Tacoma.

The half-day series of briefings by senior officers and strategists opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center at 1500 Broadway. Admission is $50, and identification is required. (Schedule here.)

"We’re kind of a future-looking forum, that’s what we’ve done in the past couple years," said Doug Adams, a retired Army lieutenant colonel directing this year’s event.

Three of Tuesday’s speakers will focus on the new Africa Command, which the Pentagon is building to work along with Central Command, Pacific Command and the other seven unified combatant commands that manage U.S. military operations around the world.

The afternoon speakers are: Col. James Herron, deputy director of the Africa Command liaison office at the Pentagon; Matthew Page, deputy national intelligence officer for Africa; and Sean McFate, director of the national security initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C., think-tank.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Tony Buntyn, vice commander of the Cyber Command, will speak at 6:40 p.m.

The new Air Force command, as its name implies, is to be responsible for pursuing the national security implications of the Internet. It’s due to begin operations Oct. 1, and at the moment more than a dozen communities around the nation – none in the Pacific Northwest – are vying to become its home.

Africa Command is also scheduled to be fully operational at the start of the 2009 fiscal year, and it too has uncertain prospects for its permanent headquarters. For now, it’s in Stuttgart, Germany. (Previously, European Command was responsible for Africa.)

The pressing national security issues in Africa are many: AIDS, poverty, government corruption, political strife, natural disasters and more.

"It’s overdue for us, frankly, as a concern," Adams said of the new command. "It’s clear there are a variety of national interests, not least of which are the humanitarian concerns we are continually being called to answer."

Adams said organizers expect between 100-150 people to attend Tuesday’s event, which is the third consecutive edition of the forum.

It was first organized in the mid-1990s by a group of retired military officers who believed that people across the country needed to hear from senior military strategists, but that such conferences are rarely held outside the Washington, D.C., beltway.

The second forum took place in 2006, a decade after the first, but they’ve been held each year since then.

Tuesday’s forum will be held in conjunction with the SpecOps West symposium and expo, also held at the convention center Tuesday through Thursday.

The "trade show for trigger pullers" features displays and demonstrations of military technology, from socks and sunglasses to shotguns, sights and sensors.

Admission is open to military, defense industry and government personnel only, according to organizers.

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