NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) - The U.S. Navy's high-flying Blue Angels won't be thrilling audiences at this summer's Rhode Island Air Show if across-the-board military spending cuts stay in effect starting March 1.
The Blue Angels are supposed to be a top draw during the
23rd annual Air Show on June 29 and 30 at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown. But a Navy briefing document obtained by WPRI.com says the Angels' appearance at Quonset and other shows will be canceled as part of $42.7 billion in defense cuts Congress scheduled for this year.
"We're aware that that is being considered," Maj. Chris Peloso, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Air National Guard's 143d Airlift Wing, told WPRI.com on Wednesday. "We're planning as if it's still going to take place, that we're still going to have the Air Show, that the Blue Angels are still going to come and perform as they do every other year."
"However, if we receive any kind of official guidance that the Blue Angels are going to cancel we will gather our show committee and make an informed decision after talking to the adjutant general and local leadership about whether to continue with the Air Show," Peloso said.
Congress put the
automatic sequestration cuts in place in 2011 to end the fight over the debt ceiling, and the two parties remain far apart on finding an alternative. Canceling six months of Blue Angels shows in Rhode Island and elsewhere will save the Pentagon $20 million, according to the briefing document.
The cuts will also force the Blue Angels and the fleet to drop out of this year's Rhode Island Navy Week, scheduled for June 24 to July 5, the briefing document says. Most civilian military employees
will be furloughed for 22 days to save $448 million, as well.
While the sequestration cuts are scheduled to begin taking effect March 1, officials have said the impact won't be immediate and there is time for Congress to work out an alternative resolution, which perhaps could keep the Blue Angels on track to visit Rhode Island.
Admiral Chester Nimitz created the Blue Angels in 1946 to enhance Navy recruiting, and the Defense Department estimates an average of 11 million spectators see their shows each year.
The Rhode Island Air Show has been held annually since 1991 and is sponsored by the National Guard Association of Rhode Island. Peloso emphasized that the Blue Angels are just one of the show's scheduled attractions this year, with others including the Army Special Operations Command's Black Daggers parachute team and a demonstration of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
"We have one of the best lineups that we've had in years, so if we do have the Blue Angels cancel we'd have a number of other great performers that we're hoping will still come," Peloso said. "So the show may still go on."
Ted Nesi (
email@example.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the
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