A planned U.S. Navy outreach event in Oklahoma City has been canceled due to federal budget cuts, Navy officials announced Thursday.
Oklahoma City was one of 18 cities included in the 2013 Navy Week season. Navy Week is a series of events that brings an array of sailors and naval equipment to cities without a major Navy presence.
Navy officials canceled the 2013 Navy Week season in response to automatic federal spending cuts known as budget sequestration.
“We are all suffering under the same budget constraints,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pamela Bou, Navy Week program manager.
A typical Navy Week includes 75 to 100 small events across the city, Bou said. Those events generally include visits to civic groups, veterans hospitals and Boys and Girls Clubs, Bou said.
Events also can include larger public displays, such as demonstrations by the Blue Angels, the Navy's flight demonstration squadron. Navy officials said earlier this month that the Blue Angels would be temporarily grounded due to budget cuts.
Other Navy Week events might feature Navy divers or performances by Navy bands, Bou said. Oklahoma City's Navy Week would have included an event at the Oklahoma State Fair featuring the Leap Frogs, the Navy's parachute team, she said.
“Every city is different,” Bou said.
Navy Week events are designed to bring the Navy to areas of the country that don't typically see sailors, Bou said. Most of the Navy's presence is concentrated along the coasts, she said, so inland areas such as Oklahoma have relatively little exposure to it.
Navy Week allows residents in those areas to ask questions about what Navy life is like and get a better idea of how their tax dollars are spent, she said.
Although public outreach is important, Bou said, it falls in line behind the needs of ships deployed abroad when funding is tight.
“Protection of the United States is the No. 1 Navy mission,” she said.
State units face cuts
Oklahoma's military community is feeling the effects of budget sequestration, as well. Tinker Air Force Base officials expect to see about 14,000 civilian employees forced to take unpaid furlough days, Tinker spokesman Ken LaFayette said.
Maj. Jon Quinlan, a spokesman for the 507th Air Refueling Wing, said the wing expects to see a reduction in flight hours. The unit hasn't received information about how much that reduction may be, but Quinlan said he doesn't expect it will affect the unit's mission.
Col. Gregory Guillot, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing, said in a statement that the unit would keep the equivalent of one squadron, or 11 crews, ready while three other squadrons are grounded.
All other flight crew members will maintain their skills as much as possible through academic and ground training, as well as using mission crew simulators, Guillot said.