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Budget cuts lock down USMC’s ceremonial unit

Mar. 18, 2013 - 08:59PM   |  
Upcoming performances of the Corps' ceremonial unit were canceled due to budget cuts. Pictured is the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performing at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis in 2011.
Upcoming performances of the Corps' ceremonial unit were canceled due to budget cuts. Pictured is the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performing at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis in 2011. (Cpl. Jeremy Ware / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps’ premier ceremonial unit is the latest target of federal budget cuts.

Several upcoming performances by the Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment were abruptly canceled Friday on orders from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, according to a Marine official with knowledge of the situation. The unit is based in Washington and includes the “Commandant’s Own” Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, the service’s official Color Guard and its famed Silent Drill Platoon.

All of the canceled shows — five total — were scheduled for this week at Marine Corps bases in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The directive from Hagel’s office restricts travel for all musical and ceremonial units, according to Marine officials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Battle Color Detachment was to perform Friday.

Hagel’s office could not immediately provide a copy of the directive.

On Monday, officials at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., scrambled to announce cancellation of a performance set for Tuesday. The event was expected to draw a crowd of 5,000. At Camp Lejeune, public affairs personnel distributed a brief news release indicating federal budget cuts were to blame.

The Battle Color Detachment just returned to Washington from a weeklong tour of West Coast Marine Corps bases. Cancelation of its East Coast tour raises questions as to whether the unit will face a lengthy hold on such activity.

That’s not immediately clear, said Capt. Jack Norton, a spokesman for Marine Barracks Washington.

“At this time of budgetary uncertainty, all units … are re-evaluating how money is spent and the Barracks is no different,” he said, adding that currently there are no plans to alter the unit’s annual summer schedule, which includes Friday evening parades at the Barracks’ headquarters and Tuesday sunset parades at the Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery.

Also unclear is how much the military will save by curtailing performances of its prestigious show units. The Drum and Bugle Corps comprises 85 Marines, while the elite Silent Drill Platoon has 24 members. The Color Guard includes three teams of four Marines who travel yearly to hundreds of events throughout the country.

Though little has been said about the rationale of cancelling the tour, it may be part of a larger move to crack down on military and government activities considered nonessential. The Navy has cancelled a series of performances by the Blue Angels, its famed show squadron, and the White House announced Monday that its April 1 Easter Egg Roll may also fall victim to spending cuts.

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