WASHINGTON: After altering its plans to address security concerns, the Department of Defense is going ahead with its annual open house at Andrews Air Force Base, the home of a fleet of planes used by the President of the United States and other high-ranking government officials.The mid-May event, celebrating Armed Forces Day, features one of the largest air shows in the US, and is held, in part, to showcase the military's might to members of Congress, who fund the purchase of military equipment.
This year, the Navy's Blue Angels precision aerial demonstration team highlights the show.
The problem, given world events, is that "the Air Force was not comfortable with conducting the event in the traditional manner,
said Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Art Haubold.
The two-day public event has traditionally attracted hundreds of thousands of people who arrive in tens of thousands of vehicles to view dozens of planes. In past years, visitors have been allowed to park on the base and walk in or around the planes on display. This year, said Haubold, the show will be reduced to one day, and there will be no public on-base parking.
To reach the critical Congressional contingent, there will be a VIP-only air show on Friday, May 17.
According to Haubold, "We agree with the reduced format,
which places a "reduced burden on our people."
The decision to hold the event was controversial. One unnamed Air Force official told The Washington Post that "the entire chain (of command) recommended cancellation,
but senior officials in the office of the secretary of defense ordered the open house to proceed. According to one Pentagon official, cancellation would have implied that the military was intimidated by the threat of terrorism.
The fleet of VIP aircraft, including those known as Air Force One, will not be accessible to the public.