Air Force Clarifies Support Issue

March 17th, 2014

In a January 31 memo to all commanders within the U.S. Air Force, Vice Chief of Staff Larry Spencer and Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning clarified an issue that has been a source of confusion for many civilian event organizers this year.

Last year, in response to budgetary concerns caused by sequestration, the Air Force issued guidance directing Air Force personnel not to provide any type of support for air shows, civilian or military. Late last year, the Department of Defense reinstituted a portion of that air show support when the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Air Force F-22 demo team, U.S. Marine Corps Harrier and Osprey demo teams, U. S. Air Force Wings of Blue, U. S. Army Golden Knights and U.S. Navy Leap Frogs were approved to support a full schedule of air shows during 2014.

This restoration of a portion of the military’s support was widely understood within the air show community to supersede guidance distributed last year directing Air Force personnel not to support air shows, but not all Air Force personnel shared that opinion. As civilian event organizers worked to secure the ground support equipment needed to host military jets at their shows, several bases have declined to provide that support, citing last year’s guidance that prohibited them from offering support.

In their January 31 memo, Spencer and Fanning specifically tell Air Force commanders that this most recent guidance supersedes past guidance on this issue. They emphasize the need for the Air Force to stay connected with the American public. They acknowledge the Air Force’s reduced plan for public outreach in 2014, and provide some details on what form that public outreach will take. They explain the conditions under which support may be provided. And they offer guidance on providing equipment support for civilian air shows and other “non-federal entities.” “Military support to outreach activities in the local area is permitted as long as the support is provided using only local assets and personnel, and is at no cost to the Department [of Defense]. This includes but is not limited to, military equipment displays at civilian air shows, military open houses, and in parades and civic events.” Effectively, this directs Air Force personnel to use the same policy that was in effect pre-sequestration.

The full text of the memo can be read here.