By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer

A new head of the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate in Rome has not yet been selected, but it is in process and an acting director would be named if necessary, an Air Force spokesman said this week.

The current director, Davy Belk, is tranferring on April 22 to Edwards Air Force Base in California, in a move announced about two months ago.

The Air Force has "not selected a replacement yet, but the selection process is continuing," said Daryl Mayer, a spokesman at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. It is headquarters for the overall Air Force Research Laboratory and oversees the Rome site.

Regarding Belk’s upcoming transfer, "if a successor is not in place before his departure, Col. David P. Blanks, the Rome Research Site commander, would become acting director," added Mayer.

Blanks is considered the deputy to Belk, and is the ranking military officer at the Rome lab, Mayer said; civilians comprise over 700 of the lab’s nearly 800 direct positions. The property/land is formally known as the Rome Research Site, and the Information Directorate organization is on the site, Mayer explained. The Rome lab is based at Griffiss park.

Concerns about expediting the hiring of a new lab director were expressed by local congressional members in a mid-February letter to Gen. Donald J. Hoffman, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson. The letter also expressed concern about a proposed 2013 defense budget cut of 18 percent in key programs at the lab, equating to an impact of over $30 million. Hoffman replied, in a late February letter, that the Air Force had begun recruitment for Belk’s successor and he expressed confidence a qualified replacement would be identified soon.

Maintaining a director at the Rome lab is considered a key element to help support its continued viability. The site has periodically been the subject of local fears and speculation about its future; a 1995 federal commission overturned a Pentagon recommendation to close it, while in 2005 the Pentagon considered another closure proposal before abandoning it in the early stages of a federal cost-cutting review.

The lab’s approved staffing levels include 723 civilians and 65 military positions, plus 548 other civilians/on-site contractors.