Nuclear Readiness, the Sequester, and the Future

The Air Force’s nuclear capable bombers and ICBM forces have remained relatively unscathed despite a series of continuing resolutions, a government shutdown, and the sequester. However, investment bills will be coming due as the Air Force looks to modernize the bomber and its land-based deterrent force, both of which are closely tied to the nuclear mission’s combat readiness. “Our commanders have done well mitigating near-term effects,” Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak told the Daily Report. Cumulative underfunding and underinvestment will impact nuclear deterrent operations because of the close relationship between readiness, operations, and recapitalization in the nuclear mission, he added. Air Force Global Strike Command is not just managing flying hour cuts and funds for missile tests, but also reductions across the operations and maintenance account—from deferment of non-emergency sustainment of facilities to weapons storage upgrades and civilian furloughs. Cuts to sorties compound because they affect combatant commander requirements, in addition to USAF’s own requirements for safety, security, and surety. “All this affects our continuity,” Harencak said, which is why a budget “glide path” is so important. “There is nothing we do that doesn’t have a mid-term or long-term effect.”