The commander of the U.S. nuclear arsenal told lawmakers that the big across-the-board cuts to military spending mean that his forces might not be able to defend the United States in six months' time.
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, in charge of the U.S. Strategic Command, testified Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee about the impact on his command of the sequester, as the automatic cuts are known, and the other looming fiscal battles in Congress, such as the one expected before the end of the month on government spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2013.
"I'm pleased to report that Stratcom is capable of executing its assigned mission responsibilities today," Gen. Kehler said, according to a transcript. "However, given the potential impact fiscal uncertainty and declining resources could have on Stratcom, I am concerned that I may not be able to say the same in six months or a year."
He said the Air Force's bomber pilots would not be able to fly the training hours needed to maintain their launch-on-notice readiness if the service eliminated flying and maintenance for units not in or preparing for combat — a cut that might be needed if the sequester continues in effect throughout the year.
Uncertainty about budget levels also could interfere with space operations, another Stratcom responsibility, the Air Force Times reported. Cuts could leave "a huge gap in the command's ability to monitor space for threats, such as asteroids, debris" or enemy missiles that could knock out satellites and disrupt the nation's GPS navigation and telephone communications systems, according to Air Force Times.
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