Shelton: Sequestration Will Devastate Military Space, Cyber Programs
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Unless a solution for sequestration is found before fiscal year 2015, every Air Force space and cyberwarfare program will be broken and adversely affected, said Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command on Sept. 17.
"If we don't get budget flexibility very soon, we won't be able to sustain the operational capability in space and cyber," said Shelton. "Because of the mind numbing mechanics of sequestration, no program will be spared. What that means is all programs will get broken."
Sequestration poses a bigger threat to Air Force capabilities than anything a potential adversary could dream up, Shelton said at the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition.
In fiscal year 2013, Shelton said the Air Force officials was able to scrape by. Service leaders scaled back on contractors and also took down the Air Force Space Surveillance Fence that had been up for more than 50 years and collected data on debris that came near Earth's orbit.
In fiscal year 2014, the service will have to cut back significantly on weapon sustainment programs, such as routine maintenance, and this comes at great risk, he said.
By 2015, sequestration may break the Air Force's back, Shelton said.
"I am out of all the tricks that I know as a way before I start cutting not just skin, not just muscle, but I'm taking away body parts here," said Shelton. "How is it I continue to operate this enterprise in the face of another 10 percent reduction?"
Shelton, who lamented that he now spends the vast majority of his time working on budgetary issues, said he had no idea how he would manage to balance a 2015 budget without sequestration off the table.
"I've got no other resources that aren't absolutely critical capabilities for combatant commanders," said Shelton. "If this doesn't get resolved by fiscal year 2015, clearly, we will find a way, but it won't be pretty and it will be a direct impact on operational capability for combatant commanders."
The Air Force is also concerned about the industrial base, which has seen contracts canceled or cut, Shelton said. Many initial savings came from ending contractor services, he said.
"We are seeing these industrial base decisions kind of foisted upon us and it is a matter of great concern to us, but in the midst of sequestration — dare I call it silliness, sequestration silliness — that's one of the byproducts," said Shelton.
"Space and cyber capabilities … are must-haves in modern joint war fighting. It's across the spectrum of conflict, it's at all operational levels; and just when the threats in both domains are rapidly escalating, we find ourselves in a place where our budgets are declining," he said.