Legislative Memo: Sequestration Budget Cuts Impact Military Bands Nationwide

Sequestration budget cuts are a reality now and reductions in all areas of the federal government have been substantial and widespread. The Congressional Budget Office reports that some of the cuts include:


  • $28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts (a 5.3 percent cut).
  • $9.9 billion in Medicare cuts (a 2 percent cut).
  • $42.7 billion in defense cuts (a 7.9 percent cut).
  • $4 billion in other mandatory cuts (a 5.8 percent cut to nondefense programs, and a 7.8 percent cut to mandatory defense programs).


Some of the specific program cuts include:

  • National Science Foundation cuts— $388 million.
  • FBI cuts— $480 million.
  • Federal prison system cuts—$355 million.
  • State Department diplomatic function cuts—$650 million.
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission cuts—$55 million.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission cuts— $75.6 million.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum cuts— $2.6 million.
  • Library of Congress cuts— $31 million
  • The Patent and Trademark office cuts— $156 million.


Military bands also are reducing spending. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, along with many National Guard units, operate 148 bands, with an estimated cost of about $388 million this year,  about $10 million less than last year.

Military music groups range from full bands to jazz combos to choral groups. Many of the groups include education as part of their mission and often not only perform but are invited by music teachers to work with their students in the classroom.

However, the military band mission, particularly for performances, changed following this March statement from the Pentagon:

“Given sequestration and on-going budget uncertainty … Non-aerial support (color guards, bands, equipment displays, etc) to community relations events is limited to those events within a 100-mile radius of an Army installation. Any support to events within the 100-mile radius must also be at no additional cost to the government.

“While the Army recognizes community relations support activities have a high value for recruitment, public engagement and the demonstration of national pride, these benefits were weighed carefully against the Army’s ability to support… wartime demands placed on these assets.

Thank you for your understanding.”


Concert Cancellations

In the past the Pentagon has defended funding for military music groups, arguing they assist in recruiting and retention programs. The various groups also play at the White House, Defense Department and at other government and congressionally sponsored events.

Following the decision to limit travel, military band performances and tours around the United States have been cancelled. Those range from a St. Patrick’s Parade performance on Long Island, New York, and the he Redwood Coast Jazz Festival in Eureka, California.

Newspapers, television and radio stations, and blogs around the United States are reporting on the cancellation of concerts in their local areas. Military concerts are free to the public.

The U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” also cancelled its anniversary concert planned at the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, Maryland, and instead planned concerts at the 350-seat hall at Fort Myer in Arlington,Virginia. The band is headquartered there.

Colonel Thomas Palmatier, leader and commander of “Pershing’s Own,” told The Washington Post the band will perform at free venues like the U.S. Capitol or the National Mall in Washington, DC, or the World War II Memorial in D.C.

“All of the military bands in the country and around the world are “in the same boat. We are all looking at reality and trying to make lemonade out of lemons, cutting travel costs and such. “They are all doing the same thing,” Palmatier said in the interview with The Post.

“We’re doing everything we can to find every possible way to continue to provide service to Americans,” he added. Some concerts may be webcast. Reducing hall rentals, some travel and other expenses would yield about $100,000 in savings, he told the newspaper.

In the past the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has partnered with the various military bands, including the Army Band, the United States Navy Band, the United States Air Force Band, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, and the U.S. Army Field Band, for concerts as well as educational opportunities for students and teachers.

NAfME also partners with the U.S. Army Field Band for the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band which performs the half-time show at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The Bowl recognizes exemplary senior marching musicians and football players.

In a note to NAfME, Gary J. Volesky, brigadier general, U.S. Army chief of public affairs said, “The U.S. Army Field Band is one of our Army’s key connectors to the American citizens we serve…They are some of the best soldier musicians I have met in more than thirty years of service.”

He added, “The United States Army Field Band wants to fulfill its mission…Thank you for your continued support of the [band] and the soldiers of America’s Army.”


Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, May 3, 2013. © National Association for Music Education