Reductions in space and cyber don’t “scale well” with reductions in other types of force structure, said Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton on Nov. 7. While it’s possible to shave down airplane squadrons or personnel, with space and cyber, it’s a binary proposition: “You either have coverage, or you don’t,” asserted Shelton during his AFA-Air Force Breakfast Program talk in Arlington, Va. These are “critical domains,” and “foundational” to everything else the service does, he said. Anything less than a full and modern capability is an invitation to failure, said Shelton. “We can’t do cyber with industrial-age” technology, he added, noting that some key systems, like those that track space debris, are still being handled by mainframes with punchcards. “At times like these, there are always people out with the budget knives,” Shelton told reporters after his address. “The force structure is always under pressure,” he said. His point, he explained, was to make it clear there can be no half measures with space and cyber. “You either provide the global coverage that’s needed or you don’t. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to fly [fewer] GPS satellites.’ You need the constellation,” said Shelton.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.