Space Commander Ponders Impact of Further Budget cuts

By Stew Magnuson
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Air Force Gen. William Shelton said he is literally under orders not to plan for sequestration. But he said draconian cuts to Space Command budgets would affect communications and remote sensing services the Air Force provides to war fighters.
Space Command will able to continue operating its fleets of satellites with the current budget that was requested for 2013, but if the cuts were doubled, "there would clearly be some constellations that are going to be impacted," Shelton said April 17.
The Budget Control Act calls for deep, automatic cuts in federal funding, known as sequestration, if Congress does not pass a budget reduction bill by the end of the year.
"You can't preserve those constellations to the same degree with those kinds of reductions," he said.
When asked if the command would have to cease purchasing more spacecraft to add to its fleets, or curtail the number of hours they operated, Shelton said he was not allowed to "pre-suppose" how he would solve the problem.
"Frankly, we haven't started thinking about it -- by direction," he said. He is under orders not to start planning for sequestration until the Office of Budget and Management gives the go-ahead.
"Oh, and by the way, our whole defense strategy has to change as well. We can't execute our current defense strategy with the sequestration reductions," he said.
As for the current 2013 budget proposal, it calls for a 22 percent reduction from the enacted 2012 budget. But that number doesn't tell the whole story, Shelton maintained.
For example, with three more Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft on contract in 2012, there was no need to fund any more in 2013, he said. Those cost about $487 million apiece. Work on the Defense Weather Satellite System was also halted.
More controversial has been the termination of the Operationally Responsive Space office. ORS sought innovative ways to speed up the deployment of space systems and capabilities. It calls for smaller satellites and rockets that could be readied more quickly to deliver services such as sensors and communications when war fighters need them.
Shelton said the concept has become mainstream in the military space community and that there was no need to fund a niche office.
"The spirit of ORS lives on," Shelton said in a speech, although he acknowledged that "some may be skeptical" that this is the case. He also suggested that Congress may feel differently about ORS and keep its funding.
Take away these satellites and unneeded programs, then the actual reduction to the Air Force space accounts was more like 1.2 percent rather than 22 percent, Shelton said.

Topics: Space

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