Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sequester Even Affects the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds

James Fausone
Veteran Advocate

While the $85 billion in automatic cuts that will affect the federal budget are in pace as part of the ongoing sequester, a little-known ripple effect of those cuts include planned demonstrations by the Air Force's Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels, according to officials.

Though the Blue Angels are scheduled to perform in multiple shows over the next six months, those performances will likely be cancelled in more than two dozen  shows scheduled across the U.S. as part of budgeting issues, said a spokesperson. The Blue Angel shows first slated for cancellation include those in April, in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. The Blue Angel shows slated for May in North Carolina, and for June in Indiana have been canceled. Other shows later in the season are being considered in the light of looming budget cuts.  The shows for the 2013 season for the Thunderbirds have all been canceled, according to a statement released by the Air Force. In fact, all public—facing aviation support has been halted, including trade shows, flyovers, open houses and air shows. The aviation efforts are part of a comprehensive marketing effort to engage the public with the ongoing technological efforts and innovations helmed by the Air Force.

More concerning are the cuts the Department of Defense has stated will threaten aircraft and ship maintenance, limit training efforts and force the majority of the 800,000 civilian employees at the Pentagon to take unpaid leave for 22 days.

The Navy is considering how a cut in funding would push the Blue Angels projects to the background in order to focus the remaining funds on ensuring maintenance on planes and ships currently deployed.

The news has triggered an online petition to save the Blue Angels for the 2013 season. The Blue Angels are a sentimental favorite for many, and also being in much needed revenue in the towns where they perform. A 2012 study, for example, found that the Pensacola, Florida, Blue Angels show brings in an estimated $2.5 million to the area, in lodging, food, retail and other services.

The Blue Angels began in 1946; the program costs approximately $40 million each year. Cancelling will save close to $28 million, say officials. The Blue Angels team is comprised of 130 people: seven pilots who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintenance crews and others. They will all be reassigned until the budget is restored.


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