By KAREN PARRISH
American Forces Press Service
Pentagon officials announced a plan Friday that will enable the military services to resume conducting community and public outreach activities in the new fiscal year, but at a significantly reduced capacity. This cost-cutting measure will yield a savings of $104 million in fiscal year 2014.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined the new strategic approach to community outreach in an internal memorandum to military leaders. Many activities, including the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds air demonstration teams, will resume, but at a more limited frequency than in previous years.
“Even given the austere fiscal climate, Secretary Hagel believes the Defense Depart-ment must preserve vital links between service members and communities across the country,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
Community outreach brings Americans together in communities across the nation and helps inspire some to serve, builds support at home for those deployed in harm’s way, and helps to ensure education, employment and wellness initiatives evolve to serve veterans, Hagel noted in the memo directing these changes. Community engagements have tangible value in that they “showcase our superior combat power, demonstrate readiness to defend the nation, and help to preserve the all-volunteer force,” Hagel wrote.
“It is unfortunate that sequestration restrictions have kept us from connecting with nearly a half-billion people worldwide over the last six months, and required us to withdraw support from more than 2,800 events throughout the country,” the secretary wrote.
A senior defense official noted that this plan reinstates at a 45 percent reduced capacity: the jet and parachute demonstration teams, band and ceremonial unit appearances, port visits, service weeks, and nonprofit and corporate leader outreach.”