Whenever federal bureaucrats running the nation’s parks get antsy that their purse is likely to shrink, they roll out something long known as the “Washington Monument strategy.” That’s the tried-and-true technique of warning the public that if money isn’t forthcoming, one of the first budget cuts will force the shutting down of the popular obelisk to Washington, D.C., tourists.
The Pentagon is apparently adopting its own version: this past weekend’s annual open house at Andrews Air Force Base just outside the capital will be the last one until 2013. Yep, it’s going biennial because of Pentagon budget cuts.
Andrews – home to Air Force One – attracts about 150,000 people to its air show. It gives many locals their only contact with the nation’s military. And the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, Golden Knights or whatever other aerial daredevils drop in to play give taxpayers a cool look at their investments (my older son loved the F-117 “stealth” fighter the first time we went eons ago; his younger brother declared the highlight of the day was the bus ride from the car to the flight line).
Air Force Capt. Christian Hodge, an Andrews spokesman, told the Washington Post that budget cuts are forcing many such shows to an every-other-year schedule. The Andrews show, which has been held annually since Curtis LeMay was running the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, costs $2.1 million to stage.
Well, the Pentagon might as well adapt the Washington Monument strategy as its own. After all, the real thing has been shuttered to visitors since an earthquake damaged it last summer, and it is expected to remain that way until at least next summer.