WASHINGTON — The Pentagon last week overruled the Marine Corps in an 11th-hour decision that canceled a band appearance at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in a small Long Island community, even though it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
The move has raised concerns that the cancellation and others like it are part of a Pentagon effort to show the pain from automatic spending cuts called sequestration so that lawmakers will reach a deal.
“We were in middle of a situation a lot larger than our little parade in Rocky Point,” said Kevin McCarrick, a parade organizer.
The Pentagon is canceling dozens of similar performances.
The Marine Corps had requested an exception to new belt-tightening regulations for the Rocky Point parade, saying the organizers had already committed to thousands of dollars for a bus, transportation and lodging.
“The Marine Corps prides itself in honoring its commitments to the American public,” the Marines argued in a memorandum dated March 14.
The memo said the organizers had signed nonrefundable contracts for food and lodging for the band and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything. McCarrick said the organization was potentially on the hook for the money but was able to cancel the contracts without a loss.
The Pentagon denied the request just days before the planned parade, one of the oldest such events on Long Island.
“It was a letdown for a lot of people,” McCarrick said.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the decision was made for financial reasons, and regulations make it difficult for civilian organizations to reimburse the Pentagon for parades and other events.
“This sequestration policy has affected over 500 events throughout the country,” Little said in an email. “The savings we generate are being directed to training and readiness priorities. There is nothing political about our decisions.”
The Marine Corps has about 10 bands, which are in high demand around the country. The “President’s Own” United States Marine Band is among the most prominent and plays for White House and other functions.
The band scheduled for Rocky Point was based in Quantico, Va.
“We view these band performances as essential training exercises for the performers and an invaluable means for American communities to see their Marine Corps,” Marine Capt. Eric Flanagan said in an email statement. “Marines make up a part of every community and we regret not being able to take part in these festivities.”