Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Feb. 27
Miramar's air show and military contractor bash cancelled by D.C. politics?
Comments by aide to GOP's Hunter suggest shutdown of Marine air show backed by military contractor cash is Obama political move
It's a tale of two air shows.
Up in Sacramento, according to a report in today's Sacramento Bee, the stunt flying will go on as scheduled this weekend at the California Capital Airshow, while San Diego's famous Miramar air show has been cancelled, ostensibly because of the nation's budget shutdown.
According to an account in today's U-T San Diego, owned by Republican hotel magnate Douglas Manchester, who is engaged with the U.S. Navy in developing a mega-million dollar downtown retail and office project as part of the so-called Navy Broadway complex:
A truncated, two-day version of the popular annual show had been planned months ago after the Defense Department barred military aircraft from performing, citing sequestration budget cuts.
Then when the government shutdown began this week, Miramar officials decided to host the air show without using appropriated tax dollars or furloughed employees.
Staffing and other overhead costs would be paid from money generated by the revamped event.
Then yesterday, according to the U-T:
Col. John Farnam, commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, got the Defense Department notice that all outreach events were to cease during the shutdown.
What's the real story?
According to today's Bee, the Northern California air show is going on because it doesn't depend on military money:
Unlike the San Diego show, the Sacramento event is not supported by the military but by charitable contributions, volunteers and ticket sales. And the Mather airstrip where the Sacramento show is held has operated as a civilian airport since the former Air Force base was decommissioned in 1993.
But Manchester's newspaper offered a different take, paraphrasing a Miramar base official as saying, "This year’s modified air show was estimated to cost about $893,000, funded entirely from non-appropriated money generated by the base itself."
The U-T went on to quote Joe Kasper, an aide to GOP congressman Duncan Hunter, as questioning the Obama administration's motive for calling off the event:
“Air shows in general surely fall in the nonessential category during a shutdown, but an air show that actually makes money for the Marine Corps, and a lot of it, could be considered essential on the grounds that it puts dollars in the bank."
“This is probably more about causing disruptions than it is logics."
Regardless of the accuracy of those assertions, it is certain that cancellation of the show has disrupted the well laid plans of the local business and military contracting establishment to rub shoulders with top Marine and Navy aviation brass at the annual event.
The so-called sponsors were set to pour impressive cash into the show and its attendant parties and golf bash, a practice that critics say creates possibilities for corruption and should be banned.
As reported here in September 2002, the Marines have had a long tradition of offering promotional mentions, hospitality suites, parties, and an on-base golf tournament tied to the air show to the local powers that be, including the downtown business lobbying group, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
How about purchasing a "Corporate Hospitality Chalet" right on the flight line? the deal includes "ample shaded tent area with patio-style seating," "permission to display corporate banner," "spacious and exclusive viewing area with theater-style seating," and "catered food and beverage services by Semper Fi Specialties," along with "your own personal chalet attendant" and "VIP portable restroom facilities."
Tenants of the luxury digs are reported to include the San Diego Taxpayers Association, which is throwing at least one shindig to include local public officials.
Air show sponsorships are also available, including the top-ranking "General's Club," which includes a corporate chalet, "eight (8) rounds of golf at the MCAS Miramar Memorial Gold Course," "Use of one (1) four-passenger golf cart during the show," "Opportunity for promotional tie-ins with retail, media, other corporate sponsors and Air Show exhibitors," and "Eighteen (18) mentions over public address system during air show weekend."
Proceeds from chalet rentals and show sponsorships, the prices of which aren't listed on the website, are said to go to the base's recreation fund.
This year, according to a promotional brochure soliciting sponsorships posted online by show organizers, the offered amenities were to include "VIP Patriot Hospitality" and "Corporate Hospitality" chalets; "media campaign inclusion"; "private golf cart with logo"; and an advertisement in the show program.
Prices ranged from $70,000 for a "General" sponsorship level, $40,000 for "Colonel", $25,000 for "Major", $15,000 for "Captain", and $8,500 for "Patriot".
Admissions to the base's "Sponsor Party" and the "Miramar Air Show Golf Classic" were also included.
Previous years' participants, either directly or through arrangements with the Navy League and others, have included the U-T itself and a bevy of big time military contractors, including Predator drone makers Neal and Linden Blue, according to last November's Navy League San Diego council newsletter:
The council wishes to thank all its sponsors for their support of our Air Show Chalet: General Atomics, Parker Aerospace, U-T San Diego, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, AT&T, North Island Credit Union and SAIC. See you again next year.
Scott Forney, senior vice President at General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems was present at the event and picked up a trophy for the company’s platinum chalet sponsorship, the newsletter said.
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