Air Force abuzz about Boston

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The buzz of the Montgomery Information Technology Summit conference this year is the proposed transfer of 1,250 Air Force IT jobs from this area to Massachusetts and the cancellation of two service IT shows later this year.

The Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) earlier this month recommended moving the Air Force's Headquarters Standard Systems Group (HQ SSG) at Gunter Annex, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., to the service’s Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

Rob Thomas, deputy director of the new Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, confirmed the BRAC decision during an interview today.

Thomas said he supports the decision to move HQ SSG and its 750 Air Force uniform and 550 civilian employees to the Electronic Systems Center. Moving the organization that administers the Air Force’s business and combat support IT to Boston puts it in the same location as the new unit that handles its procurement, Operations Support Systems Wing.

“We had a fragmentation of C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] for years,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he understands the importance of HQ SSG to the economy of Alabama because of the defense contractors and conferences here. However, he said the state will get 3,000 jobs when Army Materiel Command moves from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

The opening of a Hyundai automobile plant in Montgomery earlier this month may also lessen the impact of possibly losing HQ SSG. But in his remarks to open the conference, G. Carlton Barker, chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, signaled a fight to save the jobs and said that the weather here was sunny and in the 90s yesterday while it was raining and in the 40s in Boston.

Thomas also confirmed the Air Force decided to cancel the popular, annual Air Force IT Conference this summer in Montgomery and the Air Force C4ISR conference this fall in Boston. He said budgetary constraints, the global war on terrorism and service costs associated with about 3,200 service employees attending both shows forced Air Force officials to cancel them.

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