DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer

The civilian director of the Ohio-based Air Force Research Laboratory and an Air Force deputy assistant secretary both are to meet Friday with Congressman Richard L. Hanna to discuss long-term outlooks for the lab’s Information Directorate in Rome.

The meeting, requested by Hanna, will include "what the AFRL sees as the long-term vision for Rome," among its topics, said Renee Gamela, spokesperson for Hanna, R-24, Barneveld.

Gamela said the session, tentatively set for Friday in Hanna’s office in Washington, D.C., will include Joe Sciabica, Executive Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory who is its senior civilian official and the principal assistant to the commander.

She said it also will include Steven H. Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering.

In a related matter, Col. David P. Blanks became the Rome lab’s interim director this week after the departure of previous local director Davy Belk for a new assignment took effect Sunday. Blanks is the ranking military officer at the lab. The Air Force is seeking a successor to Belk to become the new director.

Also pending, said Gamela, is a proposed visit to the Griffiss park-based Rome lab by Debra K. Tune, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics; Hanna said in mid-February he had invited her to the area. Hanna is awaiting further details from her office including potential dates, Gamela said.

Concerns about the lab were expressed by Hanna and other local congressional leaders in February due to a 2013 proposed defense budget cut of 18 percent in key Rome lab programs, equating to an impact of over $30 million.

Hanna last week testified before the House Armed Services Committee about funding for cyber security research and development in the 2013 defense budget, and cited the importance of work at the Rome lab.

He asked the committee to review the Rome lab Information Directorate programs "in order to provide fair funding for our nation’s 21st century cyber defenses...."

Hanna also had expressed concern in February about the need to retain an on-site director at the Rome facility. The commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Maj. Gen. William N. McCasland, praised the Rome site during a visit April 11 and said he was optimistic about its mission. He also noted the intent to find a new Rome director, but would not speculate on when that would be completed.

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