Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

April 10, 2013

Federal budget cuts ground Air Force aircraft

(Continued)

On Wednesday, when President Barack Obama submits his fiscal year 2014 budget, the Pentagon blueprint is expected to include requests for two rounds of domestic base closings in 2015 and 2017, a pay raise of only 1 percent for military personnel and a revival of last year's plan to increase health care fees and implement new ones, according to several defense analysts.

On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said another huge concern is the uncontrollable cost the Defense Department is paying for health care and other benefits. He said money spent on that is not being used on preparing pilots for missions and troops for combat.

The greatest fiscal threat to the military is not declining budgets, Hagel warned, but rather "the growing imbalance in where that money is being spent internally."

For affected units, the Air Force says it will shift its focus to ground training. That includes the use of flight simulators and academic training to maintain basic skills and aircraft knowledge, Lingle said. Aircraft maintainers plan to clear up as much of a backlog of scheduled inspections and maintenance that budgets allow.

On the same day, the Navy confirmed that the Blue Angels aerobatic team would be cancelling the rest of its season.

Tom Frosch, the Blue Angels lead pilot and team commander, announced the news late Tuesday at the team's Pensacola Naval Air Station headquarters while standing in front of the one of the iconic blue-and-gold jets. Frosch said the news marks the first time since the Korean War that the team would not make the air show rounds.

"The Navy held off as long as possible with the hope of salvaging some of the season," Frosch said. "We hope we'll be turned back on for 2014."

___

Associated Press writer Melissa R. Nelson contributed to this report from Pensacola, Fla.

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