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Budget cuts may ground Angels

The Blue Angels flying aerobatic team of the U.S. Navy may be forced to cancel its appearance at the 2013 Oregon International Air Show because of the looming federal budget cuts known as “sequestration.”

Air Show President Judy Willey says a Navy admiral discussed the military’s financial situation with the board of directors of the International Council of Air Shows last week in Washington, D.C. Willey serves on the board and attended the meeting.

“He explained the situation the military is facing and it’s pretty grim. We don’t want the Blue Angels to cancel, but what could happen to the military is a much bigger deal for the country that what could happen to the air show,” says Willey, wife of Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey.

The U.S. Navy may also be forced to cancel its participation in the Portland Rose Festival because of the pending cuts.

“We are aware of that, but Fleet Week will go on whether the U.S. Navy can make it or not,” says Jeff Curtis, Rose Festival chief executive officer.

Several Navy ships are scheduled to dock along seawall in downtown Portland from June 5 to 9. But that could change if Congress does not find a budget compromise by March 1, which looks increasingly unlikely.

Curtis agrees with Willey that the federal budget situation is much bigger than either of their festivals.

“It’s the next fiscal cliff. It could affect everything,” Curtis says.

Some defense analysts estimate that the military-related cuts could cost the economy 2 million jobs in the defense industry and other sectors.

Willey says another military flying team could also be forced to pull out of the air show. It is a demonstration team of both modern and vintage military aircraft.

Willey says the air show board is committed to going ahead with this year’s event, which is scheduled for last weekend in July at the Hillsboro Airport.

The board is still planning on the participation of both military teams. There are a dozen other performers that are not dependent on government support.

The air show board changed the date of this year’s event to accommodate the schedule of the Blue Angels, one of the most popular flying stunt teams in the world. It is scheduled for the same weekend as the Washington County Fair. There are no plans to change the date if the two military teams pull out, Willey says.

The Blue Angels were formed in 1946. The six demonstration pilots fly the F/A-18 Hornet in more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year.

An estimated 11 million spectators view the squadron during air shows each year.

The budget cuts were set in the Budget Control Act of 2011. They were intended to be so deep that Congress would approve a mix of smaller cuts and tax increases before they took effect.

Although the last Congress enacted some tax increases at the last minute, most of the cuts are still scheduled to take effect.

An internal Navy memo and accompanying slideshow presentation was sent out by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert in mid-January.

According to the Jan. 25 memo, the Navy is already making cuts because of Congress’ failure to pass its spending bills last year. It is facing an additional $4 billion in cuts for fiscal year 2013 if Congress doesn’t reach a budget deal in time.

The memo and slides outlined the range of cuts the Navy intends to make if the full cuts take effect, including the cancellation of 30 Blue Angel shows, which is projected to save $20 million.

The memo also lists fleet participation in the Portland Rose Festival and Seattle Seafair among the proposed cuts. Several Navy ships traditionally dock along seawall in downtown Portland as part of the festival.



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