Proposed defense cuts hit hard in Virginia

By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor

The Virginia congressional delegation is not pleased with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ call to shutdown U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. Announced in early August, the proposed elimination is part of the Secretary’s on-going efforts to cut defense costs.

Republican Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia’s 4th district joined the Federal Drive with more on the Virginia delegation’s perspective that the decision to eliminate JFCOM might be premature, and merits further discussion.

“It would have a huge impact to all of Virginia,” Forbes said. “We feel if you’re going to cut out an entire command, you at least ought to ask some questions out in the spotlight where some people can talk about them, and ask questions.”

The delegation’s main assertion, Forbes said, is that the decision was announced with very little debate or conversation, and even less documentation supporting the decision.

The second element in the Virginia delegation’s outcry is whether the Pentagon might be circumventing the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) laws with the decision. The BRAC laws monitor how base realignment and closures take place, and by not carrying out the closure through BRAC, Forbes believes that the Pentagon is leaving many people supporting the base behind.

“When you circumvent the law like this, what you do to these localities who have worked for so many years to support a command like this, is you take away from them all of the many economic benefits that we give the individuals who are going through these huge closures,” Forbes said.

But when the decision to close down JFCOM was announced, it was done for that reason; the Defense Business Board found in its review that there was more superfluous support staff than essential staff.

From the Board’s report:

…it appears that Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) now has more contractors on its payroll than government military and civilian personnel. Joint Forces Command appears to own its own multiple ‘joint commands.’ Some of the organizations on this chart appear to have almost the same name and mission. We now have NORTHCOM as a combatant command with focus on the homeland and this command could abosrb some of the JFCOM mission. We would hope the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is looking closely at the possibility of eliminating redundancies and duplication not only in the Combatant Commands but consider what the military departments could do within their existing capabilities.

But while Forbes did not dismiss the need for possible realignment at JFCOM, he explained that the Pentagon had also not provided information as to how much money, or if, they would be saving by shutting it down.

“We think the secretary has done this without all of the information. We hope that they’ll just take a step back and say ‘let Congress take a look through’,” Forbes said. “Then if in the end of things if you decide to make these cuts, do it, but at least get the facts and information before you do it so hastily.”

Winslow Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, also joined the Federal Drive this morning with industry perspective on the proposed defense cuts. Wheeler also shared his thoughts on the elimination of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and says the Pentagon can and should do more to cut spending. You can find more information and hear the full interview here.

Also, are the proposed cuts to DoD’s budget and programs just the beginning? Listen to Federal News Radio’s new series, Pentagon Solutions on In Depth.

This story is part of Federal News Radio’s daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.

(Copyright 2010 by Federal News Radio. All Rights Reserved.)


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