Budget sequestration’s return would impact combat support services that special operations forces and counterterrorism activities rely on, like logistics and, in particular, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance work, warned Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Michael Lumpkin on Tuesday. “We don’t have enough ISR, and we do the best with what we have,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats panel. Any cutbacks to the number of overhead ISR orbits supporting combatant commanders around the world would affect those operations, he said. Reduced ISR means less visibility and “fidelity” in areas where SOF forces operate, and over time, would affect counterterrorism work, too, he said. Lumpkin also highlighted the need for SOF aircraft modernization. Even though the services buy special-mission aircraft, US Special Operations Command makes modifications to them, he said. Reduced funding means the services would purchase airplanes at a slower rate, which would have “long-term impacts for capabilities,” said Lumpkin. (Lumpkin’s written testimony)
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.