WASHINGTON — If the U.S. Defense Department gets hit with sequestration again in 2020, the Navy’s famous flight demonstration team won’t be hitting the air show circuit, according to a Navy document submitted to Congress last week.
A paper submitted to Congress by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer puts the Blue Angels’ 2020 tour in the crosshairs if Congress can’t come to a deal that avoids an across-the-board cut to the Defense Department’s budget by mid-January 2020.
The slide, which shows the potential impact of a “mechanical sequestration” on regions throughout the country, shows 21 shows being canceled, an estimate based on the 2019 schedule.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller made two references to the Blue Angels' season in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. The cuts, Neller said, would go well beyond the Blue Angels, forcing the Marine Corps to make structural changes.
“If we were forced back to a sequestration level, it would be more than just the Blue Angels not doing air shows,” Neller said. “It would be units getting ready to deploy later, it would cause us to look at our force structure, have to make ourselves a smaller force.”
All the services have been tasked by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to come up with a 2020 budget that accounts for sequestration in addition to the regular 2020 budget.
Congress has until Jan. 15, 2020, to come up with a deal that forestalls sequestration, said Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Navy declined to directly comment on specific 2020 proposed budget cuts, according to a Navy spokesperson.
“[Program Objective Memorandum-20] POM-20 is currently in progress and we will not comment on pre-decisional budgetary matters," said Lt. Lauren Chatmas. "What I can tell you is that anything you may have seen about POM-20 are just options as we strive to find the best balance to support the defense strategy while also being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. This is what the POM process is for — to review all accounts in determining the best balance of investments.”
Harrison said that if history is any guide, Congress will likely cruise into 2020 under a continuing resolution that holds the budget at 2019 levels and then cut a deal at the last minute.
“It will be close, it will look like we won’t get a deal; and then, at the last moment, Congress will make a deal,” Harrison said.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.