Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined the Pentagon's new strategic approach to community outreach in an internal memorandum to service chiefs and other 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 Department must preserve vital links between service members and communities across the country," said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
Little said that the new guidelines are part of a careful balancing act and demonstrate the Department's determination to make the most efficient use of resources.
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% reduced capacity: the jet and parachute demonstration teams, band and ceremonial unit appearances, port visits, service weeks, and nonprofit and corporate leader outreach."
The connections between U.S. service members and the civilians they defend are important to active and reserve service members, their families, and veterans, the secretary said in his memo.
"Community and public outreach is a crucial Departmental activity that reinforces trust and confidence in the United States Military and in its most important asset- people," Hagel asserted. "It is our obligation to sustain that trust well into the future."