Nothing to Dial Down

Air Force Space Command will really be behind the eight ball if the budget sequester continues without major adjustment, said AFSPC Commander Gen. William Shelton. During an Oct. 25 interview, Shelton said he can’t “adjust the rheostat” of his spending “like the flying commands” can. While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command can reduce flying hours—admittedly, at a steep cost in readiness—AFSPC can’t simply do less of anything because every function it provides is an all-or-nothing “no-fail” mission, said Shelton. “I can’t reduce ops tempo,” he explained. There’s “no way” to reduce activities like nuclear missile warning, global communications, space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance without causing an immediate and grave effect on all aspects of the US military, he said. Similarly, while those other commands can discuss vertical cuts, such as eliminating the A-10 or KC-10 fleets, AFSPC doesn’t have that option, and for the same reason: there’s no mission he’s allowed to stop doing. “I could close every single ground station and it still wouldn’t pay the bill” demanded by sequester, said Shelton. The recent closure of the Space Fence—an annual operating cost of just $14 million—illustrates “that I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel,” and reaching into needed capabilities to keep other functions operating, he noted. “I have no idea” how AFSPC is going to do all its assigned missions with the sequestered funding available in Fiscal 2015, he said.