For the first time since the event began, there will be no fleet at Fleet Week Port Everglades this year.
The organizers of the annual event, Broward Navy Days Inc., said Tuesday that the U.S. Navy waited as long as it could in the hopes that budget constraints associated with the federal government’s sequester cuts would change and enable its sailors to participate.
But the secretary of defense has said that because of the budget cuts, the Navy will not be sending any ships to Fleet Week or to any other American ports, except where the ships are based, organizers said at a news conference.
"This year we were going to have two destroyers, a nuclear submarine, and the Coast Guard cutter," said Mary Anne Gray of Broward Navy Days Inc.
The organization tried to put the best face possible on Fleet Week without a fleet. The weeklong event from April 29-May 6 will have a focus on honoring local military personnel who are stationed in South Florida. Events will include a “Salute to Veterans,” golf and cooking tournaments, and a 5K run.
"We're all about bringing a little more recognition to our local units than probably would've occurred if we had the visiting ships arrive," said Jean-Sebastien Gros of Broward Navy Days Inc.
There was some disappointment indicated at the news conference, although Gros said he didn't think the cancelation of the ships was disappointing.
"I mean we had thousands and thousands of people scheduled to be on ship tours, perhaps it'll be disappointing to them," he said.
Nicki Grossman, the director of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, had a different point of view.
"It's a great disappointment for us. It's a kind of acknowledgement that what they call sequestration really does have a human side," she said. "While they're playing games in Washington we're losing a great opportunity to host sailors at liberty who deserve the break to be in Greater Fort Lauderdale."
A smaller Fleet Week had been expected, with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler saying late last month that the event would be scaled back.
The Navy has also canceled its Blue Angels air shows for the rest of the year because of budget constraints, though it said the squadron will continue to train in Florida to "main maintain flying proficiency until further notice."
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