The Blue Angels – national treasure, or waste of national treasure?


Fox News has reported the Navy’s famed Blue Angels are to be grounded, except for necessary training, because of sequestration and other factors:

The Navy announced the cancellation Tuesday of over 30 shows for the stunt-flying team that were planned through November, citing budget cuts imposed by the Department of Defense.

“The Navy has cancelled the remaining 2013 performances of its Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. The Squadron will continue to train to maintain flying proficiency until further notice at its home station in Pensacola,” a statement from Navy officials said. “Recognizing budget realities, current Defense policy states that outreach events can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government.”

….Navy officials add that the cancellation is not only due in part to the sequester, but also from a DOD policy to prioritize funding for Armed Forces.

Fans and Angels-dependent businesses are devastated, of course:

Enthusiasts say that this, coupled with the cancellation of the Thunderbirds season, is a major blow to the air show industry.

“The Blue Angels are the Rolling Stones of the Air Show World and losing them, whether it’s a few days, a few months, or a few years, it is a crushing blow, not only to the industry, but for thousands of fans,” John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, told

“The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds are huge draws for our industry and when they don’t participate in an air show it not only hurts attendance — it makes it less than it was,” he added.

Organizers for Seafair, a yearly summer festival in Seattle, Wash., shared the sentiment with a release on their website Tuesday.

“Today we were officially informed by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels that their season has been cancelled, including the Seafair performance, due to federal budget cuts resulting from sequestration,” reads the statement. “The Blue Angels have flown at Seafair for over 40 years and are an important part of our history. The team will be deeply missed by Seattleites…”

This puts an interesting dilemma forward to supporters of sequestration. On the one hand, flying the Blue Angels at shows is a symbol of national pride. The money spent on the planes’ performances is not all that expensive, compared to the totality of the federal budget – Fox says the total cost is $20 million or so through the fall – and much like the Capitol and the White House, sometimes class and elegance is a good thing for domestic and international relations.

On the other hand, the Blue Angels are taxpayer-funded. Should the federal government be subsidizing air shows by having them fly? The military is supposed to be used for defending the nation from internal and external attacks, and protecting our national interests, not garnering cheers from admirers.

If the federal government were flush with cash, and had little to no debt, spending this money could be seen as worthwhile. It inspires a certain amount of patriotism, and I understand it’s a pretty cool spectacle to watch. And while it would be better for the President and Congress to focus on corruption and fraud in the federal government as opposed to the Blue Angels – especially since the Angels are a relatively small part of the federal budget – I think grounding them is the right move.

Of course, supporting the decision does not mean it was the best one to make. This seems to be part of the President’s plan to make sure as much pain as possible hits through sequestration, even if the Navy is taking responsibility for the decision.