WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging him to consider relocating the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Germany to Hampton Roads.
The senators claim the move could save up to $70 million yearly and create up to 4,300 jobs, according to a press release from the senators Wednesday.
According to the release, the joint letter followed a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Monday which was critical of the Defense Department’s lack of transparency when it decided earlier this year to maintain its AFRICOM headquarters in Europe.
Sens. Warner and Kaine ask Secretary Hagel to revisit that earlier decision in light of the GAO findings, and the Virginia senators also urge Secretary Hagel to consider the existing military investment and joint-service assets in Hampton Roads.
The text of the Warner/Kaine letter follows:
September 10, 2013
Dear Secretary Hagel,
We write to highlight a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found the decision by the Department of Defense (DoD) to keep U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters in Germany was not supported by a comprehensive and well-documented analysis that balanced the operational and cost benefits of the options available to DoD. As we face a challenging fiscal environment and deep defense cuts tied to the Budget Control Act 2011, we must look for reasonable savings, especially if there would be no significant noticeable reduction in capability. We continue to believe the potential relocation of U.S. Africa Command to the United States is an option that could save the government millions annually and create thousands of new stateside jobs. We request you take the GAO recommendations into account as you consider future savings and efficiencies within the DoD budget.
We concur with GAO’s recommendation that DoD conduct a more comprehensive and well-documented analysis of options for the permanent placement of the headquarters of AFRICOM, including documentation as to whether the operational benefits of each option outweigh the costs. As you know, a 2012 study by DoD determined a move by AFRICOM to the U.S. would provide annual savings of roughly $65 million, create an additional 4,500 U.S. jobs and inject about $400 million into the local economy. The reductions in housing and cost of living allowances, which add up to about $80 million for AFRICOM, would go a long way towards saving DoD resources at a critical time.
As you stated in April 2013, we need to challenge all past assumptions in order to seek cost savings and efficiencies in “a time of unprecedented shifts in the world order, new global challenges, and deep global fiscal uncertainty,” to explore the full range of options for implementing U.S. national security strategy, and to “put everything on the table.” In addition the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act takes note of the need to conduct a full review of our overseas military facility structure, on balance with meeting our operational needs. We believe now is a good time to again make a comprehensive analysis of how AFRICOM fits into the most appropriate balance between forward-stationed, rotationally deployed, and home-based forces. As the GAO report notes, “these options should include placing some AFRICOM headquarters personnel in forward locations, while moving others to the United States.”
There has been discussion of the suitability and cost-avoidance available through the potential relocation of AFRICOM to Hampton Roads:
Hampton Roads represents one of the largest concentrations of joint and service-unique military commands in the United States. The region offers joint installations, command-and-control resources, training and education facilities that could superbly support AFRICOM’s mission.
Nearby joint and allied organizations and education facilities, including the Joint Armed Forces Staff College and NATO Allied Command-Transformation (NATO AC-T), will serve as much needed force multipliers for doctrinal and strategic growth. These commands could also enable a healthy dialogue between AFRICOM and our NATO allies who are already engaged in stabilization efforts in Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa.
Norfolk and its adjoining communities already have first-class facilities to accommodate AFRICOM’s mission. For example, DoD spent $373 million in physical and communications infrastructure in the region intended for U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), which since has been decommissioned.
The Hampton Roads area also has a well-deserved reputation for being home to a wide range of high-technology resources. They include federal and private research facilities and laboratories, modeling-and-simulation centers, a large base of information–technology defense contractors, and universities and colleges recognized for their achievement in many disciplines. With a Hampton Roads location, AFRICOM would be able to draw on the rich talent and professional experience available on its doorstep.
We strongly encourage you to conduct additional analysis on the benefits of relocating AFRICOM to the United States. We would appreciate a briefing on this matter at your earliest convenience. We stand ready to help the Administration in this effort to find a suitable cost-savings for the Department of Defense.
We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
MARK WARNER TIM KAINE