Memorial Day parade loses sponsors; organizers say it will go forward anyway

May 9, 2013

Organizers of the annual National Memorial Day Parade alongside the Mall say they are short sponsors for this year’s event, and federal budget cuts are dimming participation from many in the military. But organizers say the May 27 celebration will still go forward.

A spokesman for the American Veterans Center, the parade organizer, said several defense contractors that were top sponsors in previous years have pulled out or reduced their contributions, citing the federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

“A majority are defense contractors,” said group spokesman Garrett Marquis. “They say they can’t do it this year because their funding has been cut back by the Defense Department.”

Defense, which is absorbing half the $85 billion in cuts across the government this fiscal year, has scaled back many contracts.

But a spokesman for Boeing, one of the parade’s key sponsors in the past three years, said sequestration wasn’t responsible for the decision to pull funding.

“We decided not to renew our sponsorship,” said Dan Beck, spokesman for the Chicago-based firm. “We continually evaluate our sponsorship commitments around the world.”Beck said Boeing decided to shift funds to other causes, but he would not elaborate. He also declined to say how much Boeing contributed to the parade in the past.

The other sponsor that Marquis identified as pulling its commitment is the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, a three-year project that recognizes the service of Korean War veterans. He declined to name other donors that have pulled funding.

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a major defense contractor based in Tysons Corner that has contributed to the parade in the past, did not return calls seeking comment.

The American Veterans Center has raised a little more than half of the $400,000 it needs for the parade this year, Marquis said. An unexpected donation last week from the Chamber of Commerce in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will allow the event to be broadcast on military TV stations, Marquis said.

The veterans group is now turning to individuals to make up for the losses in corporate donations. If those contributions are not enough, the group will pull funding from other initiatives, he said.

The parade has already scaled back its military participation because of budget cuts. The crews of the Boston-based ship USS Constitution and the Norfolk-based USS Arlington, for example, won’t attend because of travel costs. And with this year’s parade honoring the Army and Army Reserve, organizers had hoped to have a big presence from those services.

Military vehicles and a flyover also won’t be present, because flyovers for most military events are grounded. At least one military band and other regional troops have canceled, too, Marquis said. Adding to parade costs, the U.S. Park Police is charging $5,000 for “security enhancements” in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Marquis added.

The parade is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. May 27 at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street NW.

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Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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