by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Gen. William L. Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander, told 21st Space Wing Airmen that AFSPC is on the verge of exploding with opportunity as space and cyber come together.
General Shelton met with 21st SW Airmen Feb. 11 during a commander’s call at the Peterson Air Force Base auditorium. He took command of AFSPC, headquartered on Peterson AFB, Jan. 5, and has been meeting with Airmen across the command to talk about his priorities and expectations, the Department of Defense budget and other important issues facing the Air Force, including force reduction and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
General Shelton is not new to AFSPC. He has been in and out of the command since 1986, with four assignments on Peterson AFB, and has witnessed a lot change within the command, including its new cyber mission, he said.
“It’s just been great to watch the command grow up,” he said. “I can tell you there is no one sitting here today that can think their way through all the things we are going to do in space and cyber in the coming five to 10 years.”
One of the general’s priorities is to ensure cyber operations are integrated into our daily lives and cyber ops planning is treated with the same importance as the work done in space operations. In the past, cyber was viewed as a commodity – computers, telephone lines, wireless connections, he said.
“We’ll put the same rigor, the same discipline, the same operational processes into the cyber business that we’ve got in the airplane business,” he said. “We will make, I hope, leaps and bounds in bringing this business along.”
It won’t be without challenges, General Shelton said. The No. 1 issue facing the command, and the Air Force, is the Department of Defense budget. Even if the DoD budget remains flat in the coming year, the cost of health care is rising, thereby squeezing the money left for other programs, he said.
“There is just …no more money to apply to programs,” he said. “The challenge to all of you is to help us find ways, to be more efficient. If there is one thing that drives me crazy it’s doing things just to be doing them.”
AFSPC, like the rest of the Air Force, will reduce the number of officers in the coming year through the 2011 Force Shaping Board. Force reduction will not be pleasant and the cuts will vary across career fields, but it is necessary. Currently, any overmanned positions are paid for from the operations and maintenance budget, he said.
“These are not things, please understand, that the Chief and the Secretary of the Air Force wanted to do,” General Shelton said. “They agonized over these decisions.”
Budget issues and multiple deployments add stress to the job and General Shelton said he wants to ensure that Airmen are taking care of each other so that stress does not manifest in suicide.
This year, AFSPC will provide training to first level supervisors, who set the tone, enforce standards and decide whether someone will move forward or out.
“We will do everything we can to provide education and training for first level supervisors,” General Shelton said. “Because, it is the right thing to do for each and every one of our people.”
Part of enforcing Air Force standards means enforcing the law, General Shelton said. He spoke candidly to Airmen about the December 2010 Congressional repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and said that no matter what an Airman’s position on the issue he expects them to enforce and uphold the new law.
“We are a nation of laws; we are a military of laws,” he said. “We enforced the old law, and we will enforce the new law and we will lead our way through this.”
Although there will be tough budget issues and stress in the coming year, there still is much to be excited about, General Shelton said. And, the 21st Space Wing is integral to the command’s growth.
“I really do think this command is on the verge of some real breakthroughs,” he said. “Over my time in AFSPC, I’ve seen the tactical relevance of what we do in this command go up exponentially. It’s just been incredible, the things that have been done in a few short years.”