Today, US Strategic Command can execute its assigned responsibilities under the budget continuing resolution and the sequester, said Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads the command. However, “I am concerned that I may not be able to say the same in six months or a year,” Kehler told the House Armed Services Committee on March 5. He said the current hiring freeze and the upcoming furloughs are “troubling” to his civilian workforce, as civilians comprise 60 percent of his headquarters staff at Offutt AFB, Neb. Many of these employees have critical expertise in fields like intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and maintenance and sustainment of strategic systems, said Kehler. While the Air Force is protecting flight hours for the nuclear-capable bomber force so that the aircrews remain certified “as long as possible,” the nuclear deterrence mission will eventually be affected if Congress does not address the fiscal issues, he said. The budget situation will also impact growth in areas such as cyber defense, noted Kehler. And, over time, STRATCOM’s most-experienced professionals will decide to retire early and younger talent will be discouraged from pursuing a career, he said. “We are detecting hints of that now,” he said. (Kehler’s prepared statement)
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.