Sequester May Cost Southern Command its JSTARS Capability

US Southern Command has come to rely on the E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance platform to accomplish its counter-narcotics mission, but thanks to budget sequestration, it’s “probably going to lose” that capability, Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, SOUTHCOM’s commander, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “JSTARS is very, very important to what we do in the counter-drug effort,” especially in Columbia and Venezuela, said Kelly during a March 19 oversight hearing. He added, “If we lose that, it makes it harder. But that’s the reality.” In its place, he said the Air Force likely “will vector” bombers down toward the Caribbean area, allowing aircrews to train and providing an extra set of eyes for the command. “They get their training, they get their flight time, and they help us out,” said Kelly. (Kelly’s prepared testimony)