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Updated Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Seafair may lose Blue Angels show to budget cuts

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times reporter

Seafair’s Blue Angels air show would be among the casualties of an estimated $4 billion in automatic budget cuts that are scheduled to hit the Navy on March 1, according to a Navy planning document.

Under the plan, the Navy would save $20 million by canceling the air show at Seattle’s annual Seafair celebration, as well as Blue Angel appearances in other parts of the country.

The cuts would be part of the $1 trillion in automatic budget reductions, known as sequestration, to defense and other federal agencies over 10 years unless Congress negotiates a deficit-reduction compromise.

Dropping the popular air show reflects the Navy’s budget priorities, which put the emphasis on maintaining funding for Navy units that are on deployments.

“Our goal is to protect forward-deployed readiness, to the degree possible. We recognize that we will be forced to make more difficult decisions to make this happen,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, chief of the Navy’s Office of Information.

Beth Knox, president of Seafair, said it would be “inappropriate to speculate” on any potential budget cuts. In a written statement, Knox says she remains confident the Blue Angels will perform as scheduled for this year’s Seafair, as they have for the past 40 years

Even without the March 1 automatic budget cuts, the Navy already has moved forward with some $4.6 billion in cuts. Those reductions reflect the difference between what the service originally thought it would get for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2012, and the lower amount contained in a continuing funding resolution.

This first round of cuts preserves the Blue Angels but includes canceling $83 million in aircraft maintenance scheduled for the spring and summer months at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Sequestration was an outgrowth of the failed supercommittee deficit-reduction negotiations in 2011. The automatic cuts initially were supposed to take effect in January but were delayed two months under the terms of a budget compromise reached by Congress and the president.

The Navy document offers regional breakdowns of the affects of the current budget shortfalls, and those that would occur if the March 1 cuts take affect.

Army and Air Force public-affairs officials reached Thursday said they did not have similar regional breakdowns available.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com


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