Hey Mahmoud, Kim: You may have a one in three shot of hitting the continental US if you happen to have and are able to fire an ICBM after sequestration takes effect. Maybe ...
At least that is what Gen. William Shelton, who leads Air Force Space Command, is implying in a press release issued late today.
Shelton, who oversees the Air Force's missile warning and space surveillance missions -- the guys who look for hostile ICBMS and tip off a chain of events, including protective interceptors, should there be an attack -- says that as part of budget drill in preparation for sequestration, he submitted a list of potential reductions to service headquarters.
The first among them reads:
"Reduce some missile warning and space surveillance 24/7 hour operations to 8/7 hour operations, impacting national missile warning, missile defense, space situational awareness and the intelligence community."
This seems to imply that personnel will not be constantly monitoring for ballistic missile launches -- known as infrared "events" -- provided by the Defense Support Program and/or the Space-Based Infrared System satellite and payloads in orbit. When asked for a specific explanation of the practical impact of this proposal, an Air Force spokesman said he'd take the question for the record.
"The budget situation is unprecedented in my 36 years of service," Shelton says in the Feb. 8 press release. "With no appropriation bill for fiscal year 2013, our ability to plan for FY 14 and 15 is even more uncertain."
Now, this could be one piece of a larger puzzle of a brinkmanship play on the part of the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has upped the shrill-factor of his concerns about sequestration, noting recently that this is "not a game" in an effort to get Congress to come up with a debt reduction plan and avoid the steep, automatic funding cuts.
Perhaps the Pentagon is hitting Congress where it counts -- by exposing constituents in their districts to consider what a lack of security could actually mean.
And, the timing couldn't be better to use a scare tactic ... Iran just allegedly boosted a monkey into space and North Korea managed to get an object to orbit.
Also on his list of proposed cuts are the following:
-Reduce sustainment of legacy MILSATCOM constellation (likely the Defense Satellite Communications System) by 75% "potentially impacting military communications worldwide" and prematurely shortening satellite life in orbit.
-Terminate some Global Combat Support System applications related to nuclear weapons material tracking and explosive ordnance disposal.
-Curtail some training exercises, including some with allies, and
-Cut corners on military education and mission readiness training quotas.
It will be interesting to see if this gets play on the Sunday morning talk show circuit ...