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The nation's nuclear mission will slowly erode if the Air Force is left with no choice but to reduce flying hours and ration maintenance as a result of sequestration, U.S. Strategic Command's Gen. Robert Kehler said Tuesday.
The Air Force's bomber pilots would lack the training hours needed to maintain readiness if the service eliminates all non-critical flying and maintenance — a worst-case scenario if the $46 million in Defense Department cuts continue through the fiscal year.
So far, Strategic Command has not felt the immediate affects of sequestration, Kehler said.
"What will happen, as the service chiefs have struggled with how to apply these various financial rules that they have been given, they have had to go to some places to take cuts that eventually are going to impact us," he said.
The budget uncertainty also could interfere with space operations. The curtailment of sensor operations could leave a huge gap in the command's ability to monitor space for threats, such as asteroids, and debris that could disrupt the nation's navigation and communications satellites.
Moving forward, the command is committed to new advancements in program such as a replacement for the Ohio-class missile submarine, the Air Force's new long-range strike bomber, a replacement for the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile and modernization of the arsenal. However, all of STRATCOM's portfolio will be on the table for long-term cuts.
"We are going to have to make some tough choices," Kehler said.