AF Academy's Fireworks Show Victim of Budget Cuts

The automatic budget cuts that took effect on March 1 have delayed millions in maintenance projects across the Air Force Academy -- while also halting plans for a popular fireworks show this summer.

The annual Fourth of July fireworks show won't be held at the academy this year due to the budget cuts known as sequestration, said Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the academy's superintendent, during a Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance luncheon March 19.

In addition, Gould warned that the academy plans to indefinitely delay any new construction projects scheduled to begin this fiscal year. The current fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

"This is a significant issue," Gould said.

The cuts were passed by Congress in 2011 as a way to spur congressional leaders to come to agreement on a sweeping federal deficit reduction plan. Without a budget deal, though, the Pentagon has been forced to cut $46 billion through the end of September and about $500 billion over the next decade.

Gould said ongoing projects -- such as improvements to the commissary's parking lot -- will be finished. But new projects will be delayed indefinitely, he said.

Specifically, more than 30 construction projects at the academy have been delayed to save nearly $29 million -- a reduction that comes at the request of Air Force leaders to "save as much money as you possibly can in the current fiscal year due to sequestration," said Dave Cannon, an academy spokesman.

The projects amount to a host of roofing, pavement and infrastructure projects across the base.

About $2 million in runway repairs and airfield fencing and signage construction have been delayed, along with a $13.5 million project to repair the cadet gym. A $3.9 million project at Mitchell Hall won't begin as scheduled, Cannon said.

Other projects ranging from about $30,000 to $150,000 -- such as athletic field turf improvements, a coffee shop and an art gallery at Arnold Hall -- also have been delayed.

The academy also must shave 12 percent of its $100 million operations and maintenance budget. Gould said cuts to travel and equipment purchases have helped bridge that gap, but it will be "tough."

The goal is to spare cadet programs, such as airmanship programs, escape and survival training and cultural and immersion trips.

"Hopefully it's invisible to our cadets," Gould said.

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