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Springtime defense conference axed in 2013

The defense budget crisis has led to the cancellation of one annual industry event in San Diego.

The San Diego Women in Defense (WID) board of directors decided to forgo its fifth annual symposium this year, which was slated to occur March 28 at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice on the University of San Diego campus.

WID, the fastest-growing affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), has 18 chapters across the country that work to advance and recognize female leaders in national security.

The San Diego chapter -- the largest outside the Washington, D.C. metro area -- comprises some 300 members living and working in the county, representing the Department of Defense industry, military and academia.

A hazy defense environment, however, has muddled the group's plans to hold its annual event, which draws prominent speakers and more than 300 participants.

"With the current economic climate, continuing resolution, and potential sequestration creating levels of uncertainty across the DoD, they felt it would not be the best use of resources at this time," said Ashleigh Tanner, co-chair of the San Diego Chapter WID Symposium and consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in San Diego.

Automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, are set to kick in on March 1, having been delayed by two months under the "fiscal cliff" budget deal.

The amended law eases planned 2013 cuts in discretionary defense funding, from $54.6 billion to $42.5 billion. Despite the slight reduction, contractors are still concerned about sequestration's impact on their businesses.

The event has enabled the San Diego WID chapter to establish its own Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) scholarship fund in collaboration with San Diego State University. The fund provides college tuition aid to promising STEM students each year, said Tanner. It's unclear whether the cancellation of this year's event will impact the fund.

Last year's one-day conference was held at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.

Founded in 1979, WID provides its approximately 4,000 members with opportunities for professional development and networking.

Many of its local members are women-owned small businesses. This year’s theme for the conference, which coincided with Women's History Month, was "Inspiring. Educating. Uniting."

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