Seafair Blue Angels show hinges on Congress vote

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by ZAHIB ARAB / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 7:37 PM

BREMERTON, Wash. -- The cancellation of Seafair’s Blue Angels show and a 22-day furlough for civilian employees may be a reality March 1.

Uncertainty about the ability for Congress to pass a defense budget by March 1 has the U.S. Navy prepared to make $4.6 billion in cuts.

The Navy has already prepared for the scenario with two tiers of cuts.

The first tier is already in place. It has suspended any hiring of new civilian employees except under exceptional circumstances and canceled $68 million of work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard this year.

The cutbacks have also stopped all training exercises unless sailors are about to deploy and slashed information technology spending by 25%.

$65 million in planned maintenance to the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier is also on hold.

“These decisions are tough to make, we haven’t enjoyed making them but we have to preserve the readiness of our forces that are overseas now,” said U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby.

According to Rear Admr. John Kirby, the Pentagon is ready to pull the trigger on tier two, which includes the air show and job furloughs.

“There is a cost to cutting costs and there’s a ripple effect,” he said.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent is expressing concern about the potential impact to her city’s economy.

“That fear factor just envelopes the entire city,” said Mayor Lent.

A military career fair attracted thousands in the area recently.

“They had 600 applications ready to offer jobs,” said Lent.

But those jobs are now scrapped.

“People are afraid to spend money they’ve got. If there are furloughs, if there are reduced jobs, reduced hours, that definitely affects the money they spend,” said the mayor.

Civilian worker Bob Steinmetz estimates his community will lose $35 million the day it happens.

“Everything will be destroyed because of this,” he said.

Steinmetz, Union President of The International Professional and Technical Engineers says nearly 720 seasonal workers and about 140 term workers could lose their jobs, a blow to their small northwest naval communities.

“I have the same bills, the same mortgage, I’m going to have to go. Watch the communities that they slave in everyday go down the tubes for nothing,” said Steinmetz.

Steinmetz wants legislators to understand the impact of their inaction.

“I’d like the congressman to come with me when I face the banker that I borrowed the money from in good faith and sit beside me and listen to my humiliation. They won’t be there, I can guarantee that,” he said.

Admiral Kirby, a one-time Blue Angel, has flown in the Seafair show several times in his career.

He says the event is a highlight for the team and hopes Congress can reach a deal.

Civilian workers say they’re already canceling gym memberships and cable subscriptions. They’re also notifying creditors to soften the blow of what could come.
 

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