WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joint Forces Command in Norfolk is one of 10 major military commands to be cut as Defense Secretary Robert Gates tries to pare billions from the Pentagon budget.
Gates wants to eliminate the Joint Forces Command, long a presumed target for belt-tightening, and announced Monday that he wants to cut the Pentagon's use of outside contractors by 10 percent next year The Norfolk-based command trains troops from different services to fight together.
Joint Forces Command, with more than 6,300 employees and annual salaries of more than $200 million, is the largest single cut to be announced Monday. Savings will be offset by the cost of shifting some jobs and roles elsewhere.
In a statement Monday evening, Joint Forces Command said, "We all will work to carry out the Secretary's decision to disestablish Joint Forces Command. ... While this decision will understandably cause concern among our work force, we will be diligent to make sure we keep distractions to a minimum and continue to provide the best possible support to the warfighter."
Sec. Gates acknowledged tough times for JFCOM workers and said the department would help those affected by the closing.
However, he said Virginia could gain in the end.
"In Virginia, for example, if as a result of these efforts, I am able to add a billion or two billion to Navy shipbuilding of record, Virginia may well come out with a lot more jobs than it loses," Gates noted.
In response, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) announced the creation of Virginia's Commission on Military and National Security Facilities. It will be proactive in identifying the appropriate strategies to retain the military and national security facilities located in the Commonwealth and to identify operations and facilities that can be located within Virginia.
Joint Forces Command, or JFCOM, is one of 10 full combatant commands. Most correspond to regions of the world, such as Pacific Command, but others are organized around a concept or mission rather than geography.
JFCOM lists its mission as training troops from all services to work together for specific missions. It tries to make sure equipment used by different services works together, and looks for gaps in capabilities within military services that could be filled by a specially trained joint force.
JFCOM says its current operating budget is $703,954,000. There are a total of 6,324 workers. Military workers -1491, Civilian workers - 1533 and contractors - 3,300. The command leases more than a million square feet in Norfolk and Suffolk, more than 642,000 of it in Suffolk at a cost of $16 million.
The command is headed by a four-star military officer, the highest grade currently in use. Marine Gen. James Mattis was its commander until named last month to replace Army Gen. David Petraeus as head of U.S. Central Command. His replacement will be Gen. Ray Odierno, now the war commander in Iraq. Odierno's job will be to eliminate his own office, officials said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said he saw "no rational basis" for dismantling Joint Forces Command because its mission was to impose "greater cooperation and savings among the military services."
"One thing I learned in the business world is you sometimes have to spend money to save money," Warner said. "It's a no-brainer that JFCOM is one of the commands that could use more resources."
"Joint Forces Command was created in part to compel jointness," Gates said. "It was understood at the time it would create an extra layer but the benefits would outweigh" that.
"Training and generating joint forces still is important, as is developing and testing joint doctrine. But it does not "require a separate four-star combatant command, which, in the case of [Joint Forces Command] entails about 2,800 military and civilian positions and roughly 3,000 contractors of all kinds at an annual cost of at least $240 million to operate," Gates said.
Gates said the U.S. military is now largely working jointly in practice.
STATEMENTS FROM VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS:
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA)
“I am deeply disappointed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ proposal to close the United States Joint Forces Command. We are at war abroad in multiple countries and closing the command where components from multiple branches of the military come together to provide intelligence and protection is the wrong decision. We live in a high-tech, interconnected world where collaboration and communication is key—the Joint Forces Command is vital to keep our homeland safe. The multiple joint operations and the modeling and simulations programs conducted by the Joint Forces Command is a long-term key to America’s national security and saves tremendous resources by using technology in lieu of expensive field exercise. Most experts acknowledge that the concepts of inter-operability and jointness are absolutely key to victory in modern warfare.”
"The Joint Forces Command has been in operation since 1947 and continues to serve as a major employer of Virginians. As one of 10 full combatant commands, the Joint Forces Command employs nearly 5000 civilians and service members. This decision will cost good quality, high paying jobs for thousands of Virginians and could not come at a worse time. This decision appears to have been made in private with no recommendation or support in the recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and completed outside of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process. It appears as though this administration is cutting investments in national defense in order to pay for massive new social programs. I will continue to work with members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation to do all that we can to keep the Joint Forces Command open in Norfolk and Suffolk.”
Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-4th District)
"For the past two years I have sounded the alarm that this Administration has allowed their uncontrolled fervor for social spending and the resulting budgetary pressure to drive our national defense strategy. We are now seeing the piecemeal auctioning off of the greatest military the world has ever known. Unfortunately, it is a silent auction because the voice of the American people is not being heard. ]
"Today's announcement to close our nation's premier joint operations and efficiency command is the outcome of fiscal coercion resulting from reckless and dangerous spending decisions, not from well-placed and much-needed efforts to root out waste in government. It exhibits an arrogant lack of leadership and lack of concern for the welfare of our nation and for the men and women in uniform.
"Under the cover of night, this Administration is selling off our military at auction to pay for its social programs. It has withheld our nation’s shipbuilding plan - required of them by law - while the Chinese navy aggressively bypassed us in number of ships. It has withheld our aviation plan, while our Navy struggles from a lack of aircraft needed to perform current and future missions. It has issued gag orders preventing any Pentagon officials, military and civilian, from speaking with Congress about budgets cuts and the risks to our national defense. This Administration has brought blatant partisan politics into the annual defense policy bill by attaching controversial social agendas. They have shown more regard for the rights of terrorists than for justice for those lost on September 11th and the safety of those currently fighting to protect our nation from the next radical terrorist attack. And this week, they and Congressional Democrat leadership have called the House back into session to vote on a package that includes $2.8 billion in defense spending cuts in order to pay for more social bailouts.
"The American people will see this decision for what it is: a first step in a long string of national defense cuts that will systematically and intentionally gut the institutions that protect and defend the freedoms and liberties upon which our nation was founded - and they will not stand for it."
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st District)
"I have deep concerns about the strategic implications of Secretary Gates’ decision to close Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). Until I am convinced that it is the right decision for our national security, I cannot support the closure of this Command. One of the greatest successes of the U.S. military – unlike any other in the world – is its ability to function jointly, and this decision could hinder the tremendous progress we’ve made.
"I question why a change in structure of this magnitude was not included in the Quadrennial Defense Review. This is just one more example of budgetary pressures, rather than strategic need, driving defense decisions. In this announcement, the Executive Branch has clearly side-stepped the Legislative Branch without deliberation on the way forward with what's best with our nation's defense policy. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to conduct oversight and execute our funding authority to the fullest extent. Furthermore, I look forward to hearing from Secretary Gates how the current, critical missions of JFCOM, such as joint training efforts, will be carried out under this new plan."
Rep. Glenn Nye (D-2nd District)
"The proposal by the Defense Department to close JFCOM is short-sighted and without merit," Nye said following Gates’ announcement. "I appreciate the Department’s attempt to rein in spending, but I have yet to see any substantive analysis to support the assertion that closing JFCOM will yield large savings."
"JFCOM exercises combatant command over 1.1 million U.S. forces, and performs critical functions and training necessary to maintain our warfighters’ supremacy in overseas operations," Nye continued. "Eliminating the Command does not eliminate the demand for these critical missions; it only redistributes the responsibilities elsewhere. I look forward to receiving the Secretary’s official proposal and his analysis for reorganization."
Rep. Bobby Scott (D- 3rd District)
"Joint Forces Command is a critical command element of our nation’s military. JFCOM is the Defense Department’s premiere joint force trainer and has improved and expanded military readiness for decades. JFCOM helps ensure that DoD civilian personnel and members of all the branches of the armed services are working together towards one common goal – the defense of the United States.
"Since its creation, JFCOM has led the way in joint training concept development and experimentation, which includes heavy use of modeling and simulation technology. Hampton Roads is the nation’s hub for modeling and simulation technology, and our military has benefited tremendously from effective utilization of this cost-saving technology – thanks in part to the efforts at JFCOM.
"These critical functions provide continued American military superiority and many of JFCOM’s components will need to continue in some form regardless of this decision. It makes little sense to outright eliminate JFCOM, transfer the personnel dedicated to JFCOM’s mission, and create redundant missions elsewhere. In fact, many positions will not be eliminated at all but just reassigned elsewhere; and to the extent that positions are actually eliminated, there will be less coordination within the U.S. military – and that’s not how you save money.
"As a member of the Budget Committee, I completely understand and appreciate the Secretary’s motivation to weed out wasteful spending at the Defense Department. If there are inefficiencies at JFCOM, as I am sure there are in the nine other commands, then those should and must be addressed appropriately. The issue of employing and becoming overly reliant on expensive private contractors is a problem not just at JFCOM but across the Defense Department and the rest of the federal government, and this is certainly an issue I would be interested in discussing solutions to. However, I do not believe completely eliminating a command responsible for ensuring better coordination amongst the military is the best way to reach the Secretary’s goal.
"The Secretary’s office provided very little information on this decision prior to his announcement this afternoon. The decision did not go through the normal, thoughtful process that is used when bases are closed, nor was there any mention of this in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which outlines the Defense challenges for the next four years. With that in mind, I look forward to a full briefing by the Secretary’s office justifying this decision. I will work with my colleagues in the Hampton Roads congressional delegation to ensure that this decision is heavily scrutinized."
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)
"It goes without saying that we should achieve efficiency in our nation's defense budget, however doing so at the expense of the command that is leading the charge for the future of our military doctrine and training would be a step backward and could be harmful to the capabilities of the finest military in the world.
"I will carefully examine the justifications for this decision as well as its implications for the greater Norfolk community."
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
"I can see no rational basis for dismantling JFCOM since its sole mission is to look for efficiencies and greater cost-savings by forcing more cooperation among sometimes competing military services.
"JFCOM also has served an important role as the anchor for Virginia’s investments and increasing profile in the modeling and simulation industry.
"In the business world, you sometimes have to spend money in order to save money.
"We will work together as a congressional delegation to see what we can do to maintain as many of these JFCOM jobs as possible in southeastern Virginia."
SUFFOLK MAYOR LINDA JOHNSON:
"We will continue to examine the information received and the implications it has for the City of Suffolk."
She noted that the contributions that USJFCOM and the Modeling, Simulation and Analysis industry have made in Suffolk, and the region, are important to our economy and have numerous positive impacts throughout the Commonwealth and our nation.
Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
"I fully support the Department-wide initiatives Secretary Gates has announced today. In fact, having been intimately involved in their development from the very start, I welcome them as real opportunities to improve not only our efficiency as an institution, but also our combat readiness.
"These measures, each and every one, are geared to that end. I appreciate the Secretary's methodical, comprehensive approach in deriving them. They will streamline our use of contractors; sharpen the rolls of our senior ranks; eliminate costly and redundant reports; and deliver sound doctrine, training and force management functions to a Joint Force now ready to assume these vital tasks.
JOINT FORCES COMMAND STATEMENT:
"We all will work to carry out the Secretary's decision to disestablish Joint Forces Command. There will be much hard work and analysis in the time ahead and we will do the best we can to provide solid data on which to base decisions.
"We have been assured that our work force will receive the best professional career advice and placement assistance available. This assistance begins with tomorrow's visit of Dr. Clifford Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to talk with our leadership about the way ahead.
"While this decision will understandably cause concern among our work force, we will be diligent to make sure we keep distractions to a minimum and continue to provide the best possible support to the warfighter."