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Public engagement once again affected

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force community and public outreach was significantly impacted earlier this year as sequestration went into effect, and is now all but non-existent due to the partial government shutdown, with more than 800 events being canceled or withdrawn this year.

As a result of sequestration and the government shutdown, roughly 45 million people did not get the chance to see the U.S. Air Force in action.

During the current lapse in appropriations, measures were taken to correctly follow the dictates of the law and policy on how the Air Force will continue business in the community and public outreach departments.

“The lapse in appropriations has forced the Air Force and all of the Department of Defense, to once again stop all community outreach, even local no-cost efforts,” said Wendy Varhegyi, Air Force Engagement division chief.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has issued The Contingency Plan Guidance for Continuation of Essential Operations, which outlines missions and functions that may continue and/or must cease during the lapse in appropriations. The Department can legally only support those functions that directly support of ongoing military (wartime) operations or that are directly related to the safety of life and protection of property.

Unfortunately, most community activities do not fit within the narrow list of operations that the Air Force can continue to support during the lapse in appropriations.

Effective Oct 1, 2013, the following outreach programs will not be supported, until a budget or a continuing resolution has been passed and signed by the president.

- All public flyovers (funeral flyovers will continue as authorized under fiscal year 2013 sequestration guidance)

- All demonstration team performances. (Thunderbirds, Wings of Blue, etc.)

- All public honor guard and drill team performances.

- All public band concerts.

- Any speeches, tours or other community events that are not directly related to an excepted operation.

- Any units (band, aviation, honor guard, etc.) currently at a temporary duty assignment are directed to return to home station in rapid, but safe orderly fashion.

Though operations in outreach have currently ceased, departments await appropriations so things can get back to normal.

“We are anxious to see an appropriation, so that we can once again engage with the American public in a fiscally responsible manner,” Varhegyi said. “Public engagement is crucial to maintaining essential public trust and confidence in our institution.”

For more information regarding what operations are excepted as part of the Contingency Plan Guidance for Continuation of Essential Operations, visit  http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2013/0913_govtshutdown/Contingency-Plan-Guidance-Attachment.pdf
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