Budget cuts: Museums, bombers

The consequences of mandated federal budget cuts continue to be announced on a nearly daily basis, ranging from closed public White House tours to a reduction in training flights for B-1 bomber pilots.

Tuesday’s woeful tale told to members of the House Government Oversight and Reform committee centered on changes that will be necessary to the nation’s monuments and museums.

Wayne Clough, secretary at the Smithsonian Institute, told lawmakers that the museum will have to begin limiting the number of free exhibitions at the Smithsonian because it must reduce its number of security guards. The museum will also likely cancel or postpone some exhibits for 2014 and 2015, and cut back on some education programs that serve schools. “We will face hard decisions,” Clough said.

Other “hard decisions” have been made, of course, such as the decision to close public tours of the White House and shut down a scenic overlook in the North Dakota Badlands (which later was averted when enough money was miraculously found in the budget). Some of the announced cutbacks would be inconvenient, of course, with visitors to the Smithsonian perhaps not being able to visit every exhibit on a particular day, or a class of students being disappointed in not being able to tour the White House.

Meanwhile, other cutbacks have been made that are downright dangerous, such as the Air Force cutting 45,000 training hours for 12 active-duty fighter and bomber squadrons, including shutting down training flights for B-1 bomber pilots at Ellsworth Air Force base in South Dakota. At at time when tensions are rising in North Korea and other parts of the world, there must be other ways to save money. We understand lawmakers using the mandated cuts to make political statements, but they certainly should not be made at the expense of the nation’s defense.