Shelton talks space, cyberspace at AFA Air and Space Conference

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Angelita Colón-Francia
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - Pentagon
Air Force Space Command's top official said sequestration is the biggest threat to the nation's space and cyberspace capabilities.

Gen. William L. Shelton made this declaration Sept. 17 at the Air Force Association’s 2013 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here. 

"Because of the mind-numbing mechanics of sequestration no program will be spared," he said. "What that means is all programs will get broken. This law represents a bigger threat to our capability than almost anything that we can think (our) adversaries are dreaming up."

Shelton oversees a command that includes more than 40,000 Airmen, civilian workers and contractors responsible for supporting space and cyberspace operations, as well as the development and acquisition of space systems. The command's constellation of satellites provide warning of missile launches, cueing for missile defenses, national and military satellite communications, navigation and timing information from GPS, precise weather forecasting information, and surveillance of space.

Shelton said space and cyberspace systems like these are "foundational capabilities"  to the nation and joint military forces.
"There's not an operation conducted, anywhere, at any level, that is not somehow dependent on space and cyberspace," Shelton said. "In my mind, it's true across the spectrum of conflict, it's at all echelons of command."
In fiscal 2013, the Air Force scaled back on contracts and brought offline outdated systems, like the Air Force Space Surveillance Fence. Fiscal 2014 will require additional significant cuts that, Shelton said, will have unavoidable impact on programs such as weapons sustainment. He warned that without budget flexibility sustaining operational capability of the nation's space and cyberspace capabilities in the coming fiscal year and beyond will be next to impossible.

"I've got no other resources that aren't absolutely critical capabilities for combatant commanders," Shelton said. "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."

Shelton said going forward, the status quo is not a viable option.
"As we look at our defense priorities in coming months it is very clear that some very tough decisions are going to be required because of the budget position we are in," he said. "Our space and cyber forces are in many ways much less visible, almost like a utility that you plug into. It's always there. And, we are very happy that we can provide that kind of capability and it seems to be so seamless. But, as long as out of sight doesn't also equal out of mind, I guess we're okay with that."