President Barack Obama on Thursday gave his approval to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recommendation that the Defense Department shut down the Joint Forces Command. The memorandum lets DoD close the command “effective on a date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense.”
In a Pentagon briefing earlier Thursday, Gates said the JFCOM closure — first announced in August — would not mean a total elimination of the command’s functions, or even a relocation for many of its workers.
“We have identified a number of missions since the August announcement that should be retained in the Norfolk-Suffolk, Virginia area.” Gates said. “We are still refining the details, but expect that roughly 50 percent of the capabilities under JFCOM will be kept and assigned to other organizations.”
Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said Friday that the Virginia Congressional delegation and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) secured Gates’ agreement in a November meeting to downsize JFCOM rather than eliminate it. He said the Secretary told them that they had made a successful business case that many of JFCOM’s functions were necessary to the department.
Hall said Warner’s office expected an announcement any day that would “re-tool JFCOM’s mission, rename it and trim its size by about one-half.”
“This is a positive result,” Hall said. “Thanks to the strong arguments presented by Senator Warner and others in the bipartisan Virginia delegation, the Pentagon has reconsidered and revamped its original proposal last August to eliminate JFCOM entirely.”
The revamped command would report directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hall said.
JFCOM currently employs about 1,600 civilians and another 1,200 active military members.
Gates said in his August briefing that he considered training joint forces and creating joint doctrine between the services a “valuable” DoD function, but said that work didn’t require a separate four-star command with an annual $240 million budget.
JFCOM is commanded by Army Gen. Ray Odierno. Gates has said Odierno supports the restructuring.
“I’ve told Ray that his assignment at JFCOM is essentially the same — been the same as his assignment in Iraq, and that is to work himself out of a job,” he said in August. “And then I’ll find a new and better one for him.”
Odierno issued a statement Friday afternoon, pledging to work closely with Virginia officials as DoD develops plans for JFCOM’s successor organization.
“We continue to work closely with the Pentagon, the Virginia delegation and the governor’s office in our detailed planning effort,” he said. “The input and involvement of the Virginia delegation and the governor’s office have been very valuable to me, and we will continue to work together towards a final plan in the near future.”
(Copyright 2011 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)