Archived in 2022

Originally posted on 05 Oct 2012

As I sit here the city reverberates with the sounds of jets shooting by overhead. Fleet Week is upon us once again, bringing ships to our piers, sailors and marines to our shores and shops and the Blue Angels to our skies.

I was surprised to find that many San Franciscans are hostile toward Fleet Week in general and toward the jets in particular. It’s cool to make disparaging remarks about the jets whenever they come into town. While people dislike the nuisance of the added noise they mostly disapprove of the fact that the Blue Angels exist at all. To them, the over $30 million spent every year on this organization could be better spent on schools, roads and healthcare. All that jet fuel they burn? Killing us all slowly. And they’re not shy about telling you so.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing it.

Maybe it’s because my father was in the US Navy for 30 years. Maybe it’s because we spent many years stationed at the home base of the Blue Angels. Or maybe I’m just plain dense. But I can’t see how these naysayers have much of a valid point.

Yes, the government could undoubtedly spend those millions elsewhere. They also could redirect the $50 million a year it spends on military bands elsewhere as well but I don’t see anyone complaining about that.

No, I suspect that the real issue here is that San Franciscans just need something to complain about. The Blue Angels are more overtly militaristic than any tuba-toting soldier and if there’s one thing a good San Franciscan liberal hates it’s the military establishment. The jets are also a very easy target. People who complain about the Blue Angels are more likely to find a welcome ear for their words than those who rail for the end of the Marine Band.

I’m not about to tell people they’re not free to complain about things that bother them. Please do so. It’s your Constitutional right. However, if you do so I would rather it were in an informed manner.

A little perspective:

  • The 2012-13 US Defense budget is $925.2 billion. The Blue Angels account for 0.003999% of that budget. Less than four thousandths of one percent of the budget.
  • The purpose of the Blue Angels is to assist in recruiting for the US Armed Forces{.broken_link}. Clocking in at around $37mil, the budget for these jets is considerably lower than the $216mil spent on US Armed Forces advertising in 2008, let alone the several billion dollar total 2010 recruiting budget.
  • The Blue Angels run off a 50/50 biofuel. Almost no commercial airlines do so, leading to tons of harmful emissions every year. The Blue Angels contribute very little to that bucket of pollution.
  • </ul> It amuses me that the same people who are saying the Feds should cut the Blue Angels from the budget and use the money elsewhere are the same ones defending PBS against the same fate. PBS: $445 million. Blue Angels: $37 million.

    To be clear, I fall close to the far left reaches of the political scale. I’m about as liberal as they come. And I support keeping both PBS—which holds immense educational and cultural value—and the Blue Angels—which is a cost effective method of recruiting and outreach for the US Armed Forces. Both institutions hold value far beyond their budgeted price tags. Cutting either will have ripple effects unforeseen by those suggesting the cuts.

    All I want is for the naysayers to do a little research and gain perspective before spouting off. Research the effects of a program and its return on investment before suggesting eliminating it. Take a look at the overall budget to see whether there aren’t other less effective programs or entitlements which might be cut. Don’t gripe about the jets simply because their overhead flights break your concentration and their militaristic demeanor makes them an easy target in our environment…or because it’s the hip thing to do. Complaining is easy. Thinking for yourself is hard.

    I guess this is just my long-winded way of saying: people, please quit your bitching and go spend your energy on something that matters. Like doing a little research and analytical thinking before putting a program on the chopping block.