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Looming budget cuts would damage US military: Obama
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2013


US military may skip Paris air show due to budget cuts
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2013 - Facing the prospect of dramatic budget cuts, the US military may skip the Paris air show this year for the first time, Air Force officers said Friday.

The move is among an array of cost-saving measures the Air Force has drawn up in case Congress fails to clinch a budget deal by March 1.

Without an agreement in Congress to avert automatic spending cuts, military funding would be slashed by roughly $50 billion from March to the end of September, when the current fiscal year ends.

For the Air Force, the cuts would amount to about $12.4 billion, according to Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force.

If the automatic cuts go into effect, the Air Force plans to cancel a third of its flight hours through September, furlough 180,000 civilian employees and scrap deployment plans for some squadrons, among other steps, officials said.

In addition, "aircraft participation in airshows could be cancelled," said Tonya Racasner, spokeswoman for the Air Force.

The Pentagon has always made a point of sending warplanes to major air shows, including the Paris showcase at Le Bourget and the Royal International Air Tatoo in Britain.

Even during the bitter row over the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, when relations frayed between Washington and Paris, the Americans still took part in the Paris air show.

Alternating year-by-year with Britain's Farnborough, the Le Bourget aviation show is the industry's showpiece event and the most recent exhibition attracted 145,000 people.

President Barack Obama on Friday warned that looming budget cuts would damage the US military's readiness and urged lawmakers to strike a deal to avoid the massive spending reductions.

"Let me say this: There is no reason -- no reason -- for that to happen," said Obama, referring to automatic budget cuts due to take effect by a March 1 deadline.

"Putting our fiscal house in order calls for a balanced approach, not massive, indiscriminate cuts that could have a severe impact on our military preparedness."

Obama delivered his appeal at Fort Myer outside Washington at a farewell ceremony for his outgoing defense secretary, Leon Panetta, who has repeatedly portrayed the potential cuts as "devastating" for the armed forces.

"So here today, for the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of all these men and women in uniform, and all their brothers and sisters in uniform that they represent, now's the time to act," Obama said.

It was time, he said, "for Democrats and Republicans to come together in the same spirit that Leon Panetta always brought to public service, solving problems, not trying to score points, doing right for the country, not for any particular political agenda."

If Congress fails to break an impasse over spending reductions in the next few weeks, automatic cuts are due to kick in by March 1, slashing roughly $50 billion from the Pentagon's budget.

Defense officials say they will be forced to furlough 800,000 civilian employees, scale back flight hours and postpone some maintenance.

Obama paid tribute to Panetta's long career in politics, including his tenure as a member of Congress and in former president Bill Clinton's administration, when he served as budget chief and later as chief of staff.

Before taking over at the Pentagon, Panetta led the CIA from 2009-2011, presiding over an intelligence coup with the May 2011 raid that killed Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

"Your leadership of the CIA will forever be remembered for the blows that we struck against Al-Qaeda and perhaps the greatest intelligence success in American history, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden," the president said.

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