Traditions threatened by cuts, military academies brace for impact

Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:38pm EDT
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By Gabriel Debenedetti

NEW YORK (Reuters) - United States military academies have trained America's future presidents, astronauts and generals, one of them for more than 200 years. But the schools' illustrious histories are not enough to spare them from looming budget cuts from sequestration, and they are preparing to furlough civilian employees, reduce training, delay construction and even scale back pomp and ceremony.

The full extent of how, and when, the cuts will affect the nation's five service academies is not yet clear. However, representatives of the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy pointed to some potential effects.

They said the more than $1 billion expected to be cut from Defense Department training and recruiting could mean everything from furloughs of thousands of civilian employees to delayed construction to the suspension of programs like band tours and educational trips.

No one at the Merchant Marine Academy could be reached for comment.

"We haven't had anything close to this" level of budgetary restriction in the past, said Air Force spokesman Meade Warthen.

The Naval Academy's director of media relations, Jennifer Erickson, said about 1,500 non-contract civilian employees at the school could face cuts in their work hours.

"We are deeply concerned about the negative effects of furloughs on the morale and effectiveness of our valued civilian workforce," Erickson said, also noting the potential effects on the home city of the academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and on the region surrounding the academy.

Naval Academy summer training is under budgetary pressure, and Erickson said semester abroad programs could be canceled. Sixteen educational international summer trips - involving 170 students planning to go to Armenia, Chile, China, France, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Oman, Russia and Spain - were axed, and fifteen international spring break programs for 73 students had already been canceled.   Continued...

Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy display placards on their backs as the exit field before the start of the Army versus Navy NCAA football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer