Otra víctima de los recortes en el DoD yankee.
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    Otra víctima de los recortes en el DoD yankee.

    Blue Angels fly into era of budget questions - Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Navy Times
    The Air Force wants to cut the C-27J cargo plane program to save money.

    An internal Air Force recommendation to scrap the C-27J program in its yet-to-be-finalized 2013 budget draft has touched a nerve within the Army, which once ran the program, and the Air National Guard, which now operates the twin-turboprop planes.

    In the coming weeks, the Deputy’s Management Action Group, or DMAG, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, will direct the Air Force to fund the 38-aircraft program of record or cancel it, according to two defense officials with knowledge of the plans. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal budget decisions.

    The decision not to continue the program in 2013 is part of a Pentagon effort to cut more than $450 billion in planned spending over the next decade.

    If the program is canceled, it is unclear what would happen to the aircraft now being flown in combat by the Air National Guard.

    The C-27J program — dubbed the Joint Cargo Aircraft — is now run by the Air Force. The planes are flown by the Air National Guard to deliver critical supplies to troops on the battlefield as needed.

    Historically, the Army has flown these missions with the C-23 Sherpa, a Reagan-era aircraft that is reaching the end of its service life. The Army selected the C-27J in 2007. The Pentagon’s original plan called for buying 78 aircraft — 54 for the Army, 24 for the Air Force.

    But in 2009, the Defense Department shifted the program to the Air Force, which reduced the planned buy to 38 aircraft. At the time, the Air Force committed to flying the Army direct-support mission. Twenty-one aircraft have been purchased.

    The shift was met with skepticism within the Army, where many officials voiced worry that the Air Force would kill the program, much like it did in the 1960s when it took over the Army’s fixed-wing C-7 Caribou program.

    “The impact of this decision was bad and immediate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting and Army Maj. Gen. Jessica Wright, then chair and vice chair of the National Guard Association of the United States, wrote in October 2009.

    “Remote bases and outposts found themselves continually running short of supplies because the Air Force couldn’t or wouldn’t fly to the same locations that Army aviators routinely supported with the C-7,” they wrote. “Eventually, the Air Force returned the Caribous and their mission back to the Army.”

    During the past three weeks, senior Air Force officials have been hinting at the pending C-27J program termination, defense and industry officials said.

    During recent congressional testimony, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Gen. Philip Breedlove, the air service’s vice chief, pledged to support the Army’s direct support mission with either C-27Js or C-130s, built by Lockheed Martin.

    “If that mission is to be done with C-27s or C-130s is a decision that is still pending and is a part of this ongoing budget review,” Breedlove said at an Oct. 27 House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing. “But that will be worked out in the next few months.”

    Breedlove would not specifically address the aircraft in question, but Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff, said his service “is very committed to the C-27.”

    “We feel it fills a gap,” he said.

    Chiarelli also said the aircraft “provides a tremendous capability for homeland defense, and that is one of the things that was critical about the C-27 and its ability to get into airfields here in the United States that other aircraft can’t get into in the event of homeland defense kinds of missions.”

    Schwartz said at a Nov. 2 House Armed Services Committee hearing that any decisions relating to the program’s future would be tied to the DoD-wide comprehensive review that will inform budget cuts across the next 10 years.
    Pero esto no es todo... es que a los Blue Angels también quieren cortarles parte de las alas, como ya han hecho con los USAF Thunderbirds:
    Blue Angels fly into era of budget questions - Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Navy Times
    PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. — The Navy’s Blue Angels have been thrilling audiences for more than six decades with their acrobatic flying in fighter planes, but a new era of federal budget worries and proposed deficit cutting has some inside and outside the military raising questions about the millions it costs to produce their shows.

    The Pentagon spends $37 million for the Blue Angels, whose mission is to enhance recruiting for the Navy and Marines and to be their public goodwill ambassador. That’s a fraction of the Pentagon’s $926 billion annual budget, but that’s not the point, critics say. They argue that lots of smaller programs will have to be eliminated to meet required spending reductions.

    Automatic cuts triggered by the collapse of the debt supercommittee in Washington this week combined with spending reductions previously hammered out by President Obama and Congress mean that the Pentagon would be looking at nearly $1 trillion in cuts to projected spending over 10 years.

    The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Army’s Golden Knights paratroopers also perform big public shows.

    “It goes to show the scale of the Department of the Defense budget: The Defense Department always goes big,” said Laura Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based group Taxpayers for Common Sense. She said the money could be better spent on other programs. “The point is to look at all federal spending. We can no longer afford the wants; we have to look at the needs.”

    But Capt. Greg McWherter, the Blue Angels’ commander, said his team fills a vital national security role by improving morale, helping with recruiting and presenting a public face for the nation’s 500,000 sailors and Marines. The Navy said about 11 million people see the squadron’s F/A-18 fighter jets scream and twist overhead during each year’s show season, from March through November.

    “We still live in a country that has an all-volunteer force. Everyone that signs up to join the military does so because they were motivated and inspired; maybe it was an aunt or an uncle, maybe it was a teacher or maybe it was the Blue Angels, you never know,” he said. “It is difficult to put a price on that and on the number of young men and women inspired by a performance.”

    But, he said, it helps ensure “that the Navy and the Marine Corps is strong 10 to 15 years from now.”

    Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute think tank, said it is very unlikely anyone in Congress would specifically target the Blue Angels because the team is so popular.

    “I think any legislator who called for eliminating the Blue Angels would be digging and digging through emails filled with outrage,” he said.

    But he said it is possible spending for the Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds and other military promotional programs could be curtailed under a larger umbrella bill as Congress and the administration look for ways to cut federal spending.

    “No provision specifically aimed at cutting the Blue Angels will ever pass, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Angels are safe from budget cuts,” Thompson said.

    Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who represents the Pensacola base and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said the popularity of the Blue Angels will keep the program alive.

    “You can ask the hundreds of thousands of people who come out each weekend and see them fly and know they aren’t going anywhere,” he said.

    It’s already been a tough 65th year for the Blue Angels.

    McWherter, who commanded the team from November 2008 through 2010, returned in May when his replacement, Cmdr. Dave Koss, resigned after flying below minimum altitude at a Virginia air show. Koss realized the mistake and pulled out of the maneuver. But the error, which could have caused a crash, prompted an internal investigation and a monthlong safety stand-down, which forced the Blue Angels to cancel their traditional fly-over at the Navy Academy’s graduation in Annapolis, Md.

    Koss resigned from the team, saying he had not met “the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is.”

    The Blue Angels last had a fatal accident in 2007 when a pilot lost control of his F/A-18 and crashed outside Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.

    A September crash of a civilian plane at a Nevada air race killed 11 spectators and the pilot, raising the public’s awareness of what can go wrong when airplanes and spectators mix.

    McWherter said safety has to be the team’s primary goal. The air shows in which the Blue Angels perform are different from air races like the one in Nevada, he said. Blue Angels follow strict Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for each show and maintain a standard safety zone from crowds, he said. The Blue Angels’ performances are designed to appear dangerous and exciting for those watching from the ground, but the shows are carefully choreographed and performed by experts.

    The Navy demonstration team began after World War II when Adm. Chester W. Nimitz wanted to continue support for naval aviation during peacetime and spotlight the Navy and Marines for potential recruits who live far from Navy bases.

    The 2011 budget funded 70 performances at 35 cities around the U.S.

    Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Blue Angels are important because they show the incredible skill level of U.S. military.

    He said he thinks of the Blue Angels as “ambassadors for not just the Navy but for the entire American military across this country and around the world.”

    “We get way more than our money’s worth for what they do,” he said.

    Fans who watched the team perform this summer at the team’s annual Pensacola Beach show agreed.

    Bryan Johnson and his family from Lubbock, Texas, watched from beneath a beach umbrella as the team streaked over the Gulf of Mexico.

    “I think (The Blue Angels) are a good way to get guys to want to join the military, especially those with college education who want to go in and fly the planes,” Johnson said.

    The only proof of the Blue Angels’ appeal and success that Lori Johnson needed was the crowd on the beach.

    “This air show is more popular today than it was 20 years ago. Everyone is here to support the military in some fashion,” she said.



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