New 50th wing boss faces budget challenge

July 23, 2013 Updated: July 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm
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The 50th Space Wing got a new boss this month and a warning about troubled waters ahead from the guy leaving the job at Schriever Air Force Base.

Outgoing commander Col. James P. Ross warned incoming leader Col. William Liquori that budget cuts from the Pentagon will make doing the job harder.

The wing controls Global Positioning System satellites, military communication satellites and a spy satellite called ORS-1.

But controlling all that gear in orbit eats cash, and the wing consumes a significant chunk of Air Force Space Command's $13 billion annual budget. The Pentagon, though, is slashing spending in response to congressional moves that will cut the defense budget by $1 trillion over 10 years.

The wing, and other military units around the Pikes Peak region, began furloughing civilian workers July 8. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Congress this month that the defense cuts could leave the nation unready for war.

Ross said money will be a challenge for the Schriever wing, but noted that the unit has a reputation for overcoming adversity.

In recent years, the wing has instituted satellites and ground control systems smoothly, while ensuring that troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have the space-based services required in modern warfare.

Ross told Liquori that there's enough expertise at the wing to deal with budget cuts and keep satellites flying.

"You figure that out," Ross said.

Liquori, whose first Air Force job was controlling satellites at Schriever, most recently served as the director of space policy at the Pentagon.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helms told a crowd gathered for a change-of-command ceremony that Liquori has the tools the 50th wing needs.

"This new opportunity for him builds naturally on his diverse space skills," she said.

Liquori said he's happy to be back in Colorado.

"I'm excited to join this team," he said.

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