Gen. Shelton Warns About "Chaos" Caused by Sequestration

Gen. Shelton Warns About "Chaos" Caused by Sequestration

At two congressional hearings last week, Air Force Space Command (AFSC) Commander Gen. William Shelton warned about the “chaos” created in his command because of sequestration, saying its effects “cannot be overstated.”   

Shelton testified to the Strategic Forces subcommittees of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on Wednesday (April 24) and Thursday (April 25) respectively.

Among the many topics discussed at the two hearings, Shelton stressed the impacts of sequestration saying that he had to find $508 million in reductions for the rest of this fiscal year (FY2013) within the AFSC budget.  “The chaos created by operations and maintenance account reductions this large in this short time period cannot be overstated” he said to both subcommittees. 

Furloughs for his civilian staff were at the top of his list of specific impacts, which also included operational changes for radars for missile defense and the “space fence” that tracks objects in orbit.  “In one case we are operating at a lower power” and in the other “we are operating for a reduced number of hours per day,” he testified.  The radar that is needed for missile defense continues to operate at full power because of the threat from North Korea, he continued, but if he has to sustain that for the rest of the fiscal year “that’s another $5 million I need to find in my budgets somewhere.”  He added that he has taken down “one third of the space fence receiver sites,” reduced the level of sustainment funds for the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS) of communications satellites, and “hosts of other things.”

In an exchange with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), the top Democrat on the HASC subcommittee, Shelton agreed that while no one likes the amount of the budget cuts, the real problem is the “rigidity in the law that requires every line item to be cut so it gives you no flexiblity to make smart trades.”  Cooper and subcommittee chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) agreed to see if Congress could do anything in the short term to improve the situation rather than waiting for passage of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which will take many months.

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