WASHINGTON — — President Barack Obama will travel to Annapolis to speak at the Naval Academy commencement today, addressing the class at a time when the military faces complicated internal challenges the graduating midshipmen will soon inherit.
It is the second time Obama has spoken at the academy's graduation — the first was in 2009 — and it is the 22nd time a president has attended the ceremony since James A. Garfield spoke to the class of 1881.
U.S. military involvement around the world has changed dramatically since Obama last spoke in Annapolis — combat operations in Iraq ended in 2010, and the administration is working to wind down the nearly 12-year-old war in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the Pentagon is wrestling with billions of dollars in federal budget cuts — including $42 billion that are the result of sequestration. Those cuts will affect the graduation ceremony itself this year: Military officials announced months ago that the Blue Angels will not perform their traditional flyover.
Obama's speech will come a day after he delivered a major national security address in Washington in which he reiterated calls to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay and sought to define the legal boundaries for the use of armed drones — an operation that is being shifted from the CIA to the Defense Department.
Finally, the address comes amid a series of sexual assaults that has vexed top military leaders. Obama called Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military officials to the White House last week for a meeting on the issue, which he said "goes to the heart and the core of who we are and how effective we're going to be."
Annapolis Police were reminding residents to expect traffic congestion today. The ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is expected to begin about 9 a.m., the president is likely to speak mid-morning and the event will be over by about 1 p.m.
Roads affected may include U.S. Route 50, Rowe Boulevard, Farragut Road, Taylor Avenue, Cedar Park Road, Annapolis Street and Route 450. Road congestion is expected to start at 6 a.m. and will peak between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., police said. There may also be congestion after 1 p.m.