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Proposed cuts could affect AirFest at MacDill

TAMPA - The Navy Blue Angels and other aerial acrobatic teams, along with a number of military aircraft displays, are scheduled to come to MacDill Air Force Base in April for AirFest 2013, a two-day event showcasing the machines and personnel of the flying service. The base is touting the event on its AirFest Facebook page. However, Air Force leaders sent a memo earlier this week to its major commands, ordering them to start making cuts to deal with looming reductions that would be mandated if Congress and the White House fail to agree on how to address the debt ceiling by March 1. The memo lists air shows among "non-mission-essential" types of flying that will have to be curtailed. "Cancel flying 'not directly related to readiness,' such as air shows, flyovers and familiarization rides," reads the Jan. 14 memo, from Larry O. Spencer, Air Force vice chief of staff and Jamie M. Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force.
The memo also calls for civilian hiring restrictions, canceling nonessential conferences and limiting purchases. "Our intent with these initial actions is to pursue reversible or recoverable steps and avoid impacts to core readiness," according to the memo. As of Thursday afternoon, MacDill officials said they are still planning to hold AirFest as scheduled on April 6 and 7, according to Capt. Regina Gillis, spokeswoman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit. Gillis told the Tribune she could not comment on the "near-term actions" outlined in the Air Force memo. Air Mobility Command, which oversees the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill, "is still working through" its proposed budget cuts and is not able to make any determination yet about Air Fest or any other air shows, according to command spokesman Maj. Michael Andrews. "Once implementation plans for these near-term actions have been finalized, we'll have a better understanding of the details that we can provide," said Andrews, who did not offer a timetable. Any decisions on AirFest will be up to Air Mobility Command, according to Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman. The commands were told to start making the cuts immediately, Stefanek said. Some decisions, like stopping nonessential travel and transfers, can happen right away, she said. Other decisions will take more time. On Wednesday, the AirFest Facebook page touted a pending announcement of a "truly tremendous, awe-inspiring, remarkable and amazing" addition to the performer lineup. "AirFest fans!" the page states. "When we set out to completely remake the show we set some fairly lofty goals. We sought world class entertainment … world champions … unbelievable performers … to build for you the best MacDill Airfest ever! Guess what ….. it just keeps getting better. We have introduced so many fantastic acts thus far that we are running out of synonyms for "awesome."

haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629

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