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Tampa defense-intel convention reset for April

A major national intelligence symposium that was scuttled by the government shutdown last month has been rescheduled for April.

The GEOINT Symposium, billed as “the preeminent event of the year for the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities,” will take place at the Tampa Convention Center from April 13 to 17, according to Rick J. Hamilton, Tampa’s convention center and tourism director.

The symposium, put on by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, was supposed to have brought more 4,000 visitors to Tampa, filling hotel rooms and restaurants and bringing together intelligence agency and military leaders and defense industry behemoths.

The symposium was expected to produce an economic impact of $5 million for Tampa resulting from more than 7,000 contracted hotel room nights, according to Adam DePiro, director of convention sales for Visit Tampa Bay.

But the real economic impact goes beyond that, DePiro said in an interview last month, because there were likely many more hotel rooms that would have been booked in addition to those contracted at the four hotels near the Tampa Convention Center.

In addition to attracting upward of 4,000 attendees, the conference was slated to bring in 265 defense industry exhibitors, as well as “leading thinkers and military commanders,” Keith Masback, USGIF president, told The Tampa Tribune in September.

Among the projected keynote speakers were: Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence; Letitia A. Long, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of Joint Special Operations Command; and David Kilcullen, chief executive officer of Caerus Associates.

“The exciting part of being in Tampa this year is that right there at MacDill Air Force Base are U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command,” said Masback. “The last 12 years they have been incredibly astute, demanding intelligence customers in terms of supporting global and regional leaders and commanders.”

USGIF officials could not immediately be reached for comment about the rescheduled conference, but the organization’s symposium website states that it expects to have a very similar lineup and theme.

“We are working with all of our keynotes, panelists and presenters to reconfirm their participation,” the website states. “There may be changes, but we intend to keep the agenda intact.”

The symposium’s “theme will continue to be ‘Operationalizing Intelligence for Global Missions,’ ” according to the website. USGIF is “the only organization dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft and building a stronger GEOINT community across industry, academia, government, professional organizations and individual stakeholders,” according to the website.

Before the symposium was scuttled, Masback repeatedly highlighted the Tampa area’s strong commitment to making GEOINT work.

Rich McClain, executive director of the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance, said he has been in contact with Masback and was told the organization is likely interested in future visits.

“By the time all is said and done, it could be a biannual event, bringing more than 3,500 visitors to Tampa every other year,” said McClain.

There are other synergies as well, he said.

“This will be the first time GEOINT has ever been here,” McClain said. With Socom and Centcom based at MacDill, “Tampa is getting on the map toward a national level for geospatial intelligence. We are trying to make it a hub for geospatial intelligence and cyber intelligence.”

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